Luis is "METRO STRONG"
From the time he was eight-years-old, Luis Velez’s grandfather taught him to work with his hands. “Most kids got Nintendo’s as gifts. I got a hammer and nails,” said Velez.
The skills he grew up with served him and his new family well during Florida’s housing boom, but after the crash his family had to separate to find shelter and support. Today, Velez has a promising new career, at Inside the Box. The Metropolitan Ministries runs a social entrepreneurship project helped bring Velez back to self-sufficiency through a business that has fed over 65,000 hungry people in Tampa.
“Luis was a hard worker, a quick learner and had a heart for serving others,” said Barsi. Inside the Box Catering started in September 2010, but when an opportunity arose to add a retail café in downtown Tampa, Barsi knew who he wanted and asked Velez to join the team.
A meal for you, a meal for them. This simple description explains how everyone who purchases a meal at Inside the Box Café and Catering helps fund a meal for a hungry person. Metropolitan Ministries has used this simple concept to engage Tampa’s business community and fund more than 65,000 meals for homeless and struggling families in Tampa. Businesses large and small have found a new way to turn food orders for small meetings and large conventions into opportunities for corporate social responsibility and local philanthropy at Inside the Box.
“I’m not making a sale; I’m making somebody full at the end of the day,” Velez says. “I’m giving a family comfort and help. That’s the best part about working here.”
Just like Velez’s experience in Metropolitan Ministries’ kitchen, Inside the Box provides a valuable training opportunity for clients of the Ministries. Participants in its Culinary Arts Program learn food service and customer service skills in a real-world environment, better equipping them to find employment and attain self-sufficiency. Velez is one of eight previously homeless full-time staff members who operate the café and catering business, assisted by four interns who are current residents of Metropolitan Ministries. Due to their hard work, and the inspiring mission of Inside the Box, the Café is flourishing after only seven months of operation, and Velez is now the Back of House Supervisor. Recently, one of Velez’s friends referred to himself as “army strong.”
“Yeah, but I’m ‘Metro Strong,” Velez said. “I live it in my everyday life, and it’s a fantastic feeling!”
For menus and café and catering orders, please call 813-209-1272, or visiting www.itbcafe.org. Inside the Box Café is located at 505 North Tampa Street, and is open Monday – Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.