The “I Am Hope Café” is finally a reality, and, now, the estimated 2,000 homeless in the Brandon area will have a permanent place to eat if they so choose. Thanks to the generosity of First Baptist Church of Mango, three unused classrooms were recently donated to the Greater Brandon Ecumenical Ministries, Inc. (GBEM), which exists to “Feed and assist the homeless and needy back to self sufficiency.” Brandon Accountant Vince Ferraro heads up the mission and says, “There is still a lot to be done, like tearing down walls, painting and just fixing up the place in general, but it shouldn’t take too long.” The church is located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and C.R. 579 and Ferraro says, “It will be about 75 x 12 feet of space with two bathrooms and we are also contemplating adding a shower so people can clean up if they want to.” Ferraro goes on to say, “This feels great and it will feel even better when we get this thing going and feed on a permanent basis.” Ferraro feels it is a fantastic accomplishment the group has made and adds, “The committee has worked hard on this and sometimes you just have to learn to have patience.”
The idea for the cafe, started less than a year-and-a-half ago when a group of non-profit organizations, churches and synagogues got together to form “Project Hope” (Helping Other People Excel,) and now the group is incorporated as GBEM with Ferraro as president. The plan is to feed people six days a week and Ferraro says he hopes to open by the first part of this month. Right now, the group is undergoing training by Metropolitan Ministries (MM), a well-established homeless feeding and housing center in Tampa. and Vesta Dickerson with Mango Baptist says, “What we like about this ministry is that it is under Metropolitan Ministries, which has been in this so long and knows exactly what it is doing.” A Pastor’s wife, Dickerson goes on to say, “Our church was one hundred percent for this and voted unanimously to do it, and we feel it will be very helpful in our area…it’s a great ministry.” Dickerson is hopeful the café will open soon and says, “For quite a while, we have had homeless in the area, and they have even slept on our church grounds.” Ferraro thanks the community for its support and says there are still a few more things needed to open the café, like four eight-foot, rectangular tables, a freezer, ice maker, utensils, volunteers and, of course, monetary donations for the expenses to run the café. If you are interested in donating monetarily, you can make a check out to GBEM and send it to St. Andrews UMC, 3315 Bryan Rd,. Brandon, 33510, and if you are interested in more information about donating items or volunteering, you can contact Ferraro at 689-7153. To learn more about GBEM, visit its Website at www.iamhopecafe.org.