Early on Sunday morning, August 19, there was a small kitchen fire at the Firehouse Shelter in downtown Birmingham. Once Anne Rygiel, the shelter’s Executive Director, was notified and it was confirmed that everyone was safe and unharmed, the shelter took to Facebook. Around 7:20 AM, they posted a Facebook status stating that there had been a small fire in their kitchen during breakfast and that they would not be able to provide lunch.
Some Background on the Shelter
Firehouse Shelter is located downtown on 3rd Avenue North, and the building is an old firehouse (hence the name). They host about 50-70 men per night at the shelter, and they also have housing programs to help people find homes. They are able to serve lunch and dinner to all men, women, and children who need it. The shelter feeds approximately 5,000 people a year.
“It’s their home and they care about it.” – Anne Rygiel
The men who stay there overnight help make the group breakfast in the mornings and often make lunch for the large groups of people that come in for lunch. It was actually one of the men who was helping make breakfast who spotted the kitchen fire and was able to act quickly enough to put it out.
A Call to Action
They asked if anyone could provide a sack lunch for 100, or perhaps if someone could order some pizzas for the men, women, and children that they were expecting at lunchtime. They needed the lunches ready by 11:00.
Mrs. Rygiel figured that the post was only up for about 20 or 30 minutes when they got an amazing response from Luis Delgado, owner of Miami Fusion Cafe. The response simply read, “We will feed them.”
“For a local business to step up in that short amount of time is just absolutely amazing.” -Anne Rygiel
As you can imagine, Delgado’s response received an outpouring of support and kudos from everyone on the thread. The shelter in particular was of course, overjoyed — Delgado made lasagna for everyone! On a day when they were expecting to have cold sack lunches, if any lunches at all, hot pans of lasagna were above and beyond.
Delgado is no stranger to needing a hot meal. He lived as a homeless man in Birmingham for 8 months before having a steady place to live and opening his successful restaurant downtown. See his reaction to the post below:
“There was not a thought that went through our minds (my wife and mine), it was just a reaction — we can do so we will do it! So let’s do it. And we did it!”
The lack of hesitation is quite possibly the most important aspect of Delgado’s efforts. When I spoke to Mrs. Rygiel, she said that it is common for many people in the community to say that they “would love to help,” but that it is rare for someone to see a need and take immediate action. This speaks very highly of the community, and especially of Delgado himself.
Delgado was able to feed over 100 men, women, and children with his heroic efforts and his delicious lasagna.
Coincidentally, Don Lupo, Birmingham homeless advocate, started a fundraising program for The Cooperative Downtown Ministries, Inc. a few days before the fire. To donate, click here or see below.
Update on Firehouse Shelter’s kitchen: it has been inspected by the fire department and it appears that the damage was not too severe. The kitchen should now be open and ready to use!