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SPOTLIGHT| Katelyn Desrosiers, Jacob Hanson & Dining with Dignity

Please briefly describe Dining with Dignity?

Dining with Dignity is a program hosted by Trinity Café where the homeless and underprivileged are provided a meal in a restaurant-like setting.  Rather than a traditional soup kitchen, volunteers either serve meals like those that would be served at a restaurant, and other volunteers stay at the table and greet those coming in for a meal.   The program’s mission statement is the following:  “Our mission is to restore a sense of dignity to the homeless & hungry while serving a nutritious meal. We faithfully treat all of God’s children with dignity, compassion, love, and respect.”

Where did you hear about this program?

I first heard about the program through the Hillsborough County Bar Association (“HCBA”).  The HCBA adopted a week at the Trinity Café, whereby the HCBA agreed to staff volunteers. 

How did you initially get involved?

Katelyn:

Based on the HCBA’s agreement to staff volunteers, one of my colleagues reached out to me regarding volunteering and the rest is history.

Jacob:

Katelyn asked if I was interested in joining her as a volunteer as part of the local bar association’s adoption of the charity for a week.

 Is there anything you find challenging about being involved in this program?

Katelyn:

What I sometimes find challenging is maintaining the same level of communication with those there for meals that I would with my friends or colleagues.  Some people are open and easy to talk with, while others are more reserved.  Finding the balance is sometimes difficult.

Jacob:

The charity is a program with which anyone can get involved. All it takes is the ability to show some compassion and have a conversation with those in need.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned volunteering here?

Katelyn:

The greatest lesson that I have learned volunteering is that you cannot judge a book by its cover.  Poverty is real, and it is everywhere. 

Jacob:

Poverty does not discriminate. The charity serves all ages and races, as well as both men and women. It also serves a surprising number of individuals who, despite having a job and working hard, are not always able to make ends meet.

 What do you believe is the importance of this program?

Katelyn: 

The importance of the program is to provide a meal to those in need and do so in a positive way.  Following this system, not only do the visitors get a free meal, they receive a meal in the manner that we all sometimes simply take for granted. 

Jacob:

The charity deserves recognition because it brings together the community. The charity is run by locals, who solicit donations from local businesses, and other locals volunteer their time and energy to participate. And while the charity could simply provide food like other soup kitchens, Dining with Dignity goes beyond that by also providing a conversation and chance to be seen and heard—something many homeless do not experience daily.

What steps should someone take if they are interested in volunteering?

If you are interested in volunteering, you can register online at http://www.trinitycafe.org/volunteer.  The volunteer sessions are typically two and a half hours between training, setting up, serving, and cleaning. 

Is there something you can share on a more personal level about your experience?  

Katelyn:

The last time I volunteered, I was talking to a woman who was there with her toddler.  I asked her if she came to the Café often.  She responded that she does not come very often, but when money gets tight at the end of the month, she visits the Café to provide a meal for her and her son.  It really opened my eyes to the range and background stories of those needing assistance. 

Jacob:

The experience was especially touching for me because the charity is located just a few miles from where I live. I saw neighbors, both those with homes and those without, benefitting from the charity. It reminded me that we have to support others in our community to keep it a great place to live. It also reminded me how privileged I am to be able to do something as simple as eat a healthy meal while breaking bread with friends and loved ones.

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