With Spring officially beginning today, the city of Birmingham’s warming station for the community’s homeless is likely done for this winter season, unless we have that surprise late winter storm that sometimes happens in Alabama.
The spirit of Birmingham was on full display this winter when during lengthy winter cold snaps the city provided a warming station nightly for 200-400 guests. Each evening, the guests were served hot meals and coffee donated by Birmingham’s finest local restaurants through a project called Heart to Table.
Here is the impressive list of local restaurants and businesses that supported this movement.
A massive undertaking, Bham Now interviewed Marco Morosini , the owner of Silvertron and founder of Heart to Table about how the program works and what it means to Birmingham.
Bham Now: How many meals did Heart to Table serve this winter?
Morosini: This winter Heart to Table served 7100 meals, all provided by locally owned restaurants.
Bham Now: How did you come up with the idea of Heart to Table?
Morosini: Heart To Table is a Leadership Birmingham study group project. The year before the project came to life, I (through my restaurant Silvertron Cafe) served meals 7 times to the warming shelter. I knew that Leadership Birmingham was providing me a good opportunity to help the City of Birmingham by creating a program designed to provide hot meals to the homeless population.
The problems faced by the City were numerous. The City cannot buy food, and traditionally they had relied on churches to provide. The churches were struggling to keep up with demand, and I had a hard time convincing myself that it was a great idea to have a church in Bessemer (as an example) provide food to downtown Birmingham, when they had their own community to serve. And all of us forget that the City spends/invests a fair amount of money every time the warming shelter opens (heat, security, EMS, blankets..), and the City cannot accept financial donations toward these costs. These issues inspired me to create a project where local restaurants would take turns stepping up for the cause.
The beauty of Heart to Table is that the work load of serving the homeless is shared all across Birmingham. Local businesses and organizations have donated funds to help restaurants purchase food to cook for the shelter. Hot coffee and protein bars are regularly donated. Each participating restaurant provides food once or maybe twice a year; no one business is overly burdened. In fact, the benefits for the restaurants and the customers at the warming stations are numerous.
The food provided to the homeless is what you and I would want to eat; made-from-scratch, quality food that is served at every restaurant.
Through social media and local news coverage, Heart to Table encourages the community to support the participating restaurants. When customers support these restaurants, sales go up, which means the business benefits. And when a business benefits by sales increasing, more taxes are paid toward the City, which also helps toward the costs of opening the warming shelter. It is perfect synergy.
Bham Now: Do you have a favorite story about the guests at the warming station?
Morosini: I don’t have a favorite story…every night that we serve is a favorite story. Going back the next morning to pick up the empty coffee cambros and seeing the food containers empty is a favorite story. Every time I see a smile because we just served something hot and delicious is a favorite story. Every time I hear “God bless you and thank you” is a favorite story. Every time I see a family with kids there is a favorite story. Every time Don Lupo gives me a high five is a favorite story – because it simply means “job well done”.