Mark Wilson reports.
TAMPA, Fla. – Volunteers at Feeding Tampa Bay's Trinity Café serve meals every day to the food insecure and one of them knows all too well the struggles of the streets because he's been there.
Joel Sitloh volunteers Monday through Friday and serves with as big a smile.
"I can't get enough of the place," he told FOX 13 with a big grin.
Just seven months ago, Sitloh was living on the street.
READ: Hundreds throughout Tampa Bay area receive free grab-and-go meals from Feeding Tampa Bay
"I lost everything. I lost my career, I lost my house. I lost my wife," he stated.
Joel Sitloh is a recovering alcoholic who gives back to others by serving meals at the Trinity Cafe.
He had everything – a college education, a loving wife, and a daughter. He even owned his own business. But he didn't have control of his life due to addiction.
"I just drank my whole life away," Sitloh shared.
READ: Feeding Tampa Bay, Habitat for Humanity team up to build a better community
His rock bottom came in a shelter in Bradenton. That was the moment he decided to turn his life around to help others.
Benito D’Azzo is responsible for feeding hundreds of people a day — all for free. This chef with expert experience from swanky locations downtown now serves the down and out instead.
"I made a promise to myself that if ever I was in the position to serve others with dignity, I would do so," he shared.
His new mission is daily servings of compassion at the Trinity Café.
READ: Trinity Cafe chef suffered heart attack while preparing community Chrismas Eve meal
He makes new friends and inspires others while serving them hot meals. He even helps out in the kitchen.
He has enjoyed his journey and time there so much, he's now a captain of the volunteers. That's something he's particularly proud of.
The smell of Christmas dinner was in the air while Chef Benito D’Azzo sat in his chair preparing a meal for many. He said he experienced "a cramp in his forearm" then he lost function in his arm. His first reaction was to call 911.
"I am so lucky," he said. "So lucky."
READ: Hometown Heroes: Chef Ben D'Azzo at Trinity Cafe
As far as making progress with his past, Sitloh says he's hopeful to regain his family's respect, but he says he has lots of work to do.
Joel Sitloh volunteers five days a week at the Trinity Cafe.
"The only way I can prove to myself and others is just stay sober just for today. That's all I can do. It's making amends. Especially to my daughter. She's not sure about dad yet but I feel it takes time. Those are things I must earn."
Feeding Tampa Bay is always in need of food donations and volunteers during the busy holiday season. Learn more about Feeding Tampa Bay here and its Trinity Café here.
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Mark Wilson reports.