Metro restaurants, volunteers help Birmingham warming station bless hundreds

Benard Tamurello, owner of Vecchia Pizzeria and Mercato in Hoover, cooks for hundreds at Birmingham's warming center.

As temperatures go down, the Birmingham community is stepping up to make sure every person has a warm place to sleep and a warm meal in his or her stomach.

500 people packed Birmingham’s Boutwell auditorium Wednesday night.

The city’s warming center is thriving because of the generosity of donors, volunteers and a growing list of restaurants across the metro.

Wednesday’s lunch delivery came from Silvertron Café, including French onion soup, pasta with grilled chicken, and broccoli.

“Oh boy, it’s been terrific,” said Earnest Brown, who’s been sleeping at Boutwell for the heat. “It’s been wonderful.”

Grateful hearts greeted Silverton’s owner Marco Morisini, who’s organized a group of more than 20 local restaurants from across the metro, who take turns providing the meal.

This winter, the group of restaurants, known as Heart to Table, have already donated and served a record 5,000 meals in Birmingham’s warming center.

“They are people and just like you and me, don’t deserve anything less than as we eat in a restaurant,” said Morosini. “So we have to find a way to stop what we’re doing for the restaurant and cook for 250 people.”

“Life is not about what you take from it. It’s what you give back,” said Benard Tamurello, owner of Vecchia Pizzeria and Mercato in Hoover’s Preserve.

Wednesday night, Tamurello cooked dinner for the warming center: 40 pounds of penne, 10 gallons of marinara sauce, salad, and bread.

“It takes us all together,” said Tamurello. “We’ve got the group and the group stays together, rotates to make it happen. If everybody can’t make it happen, we all give together a little piece to make it happen if we can’t do it by ourselves solo.”

Tamurello calls the feeding mission a team effort from restaurants across the metro.

"That's what life’s about, is about a team," said Tamurello. "It’s not just one area. It’s everybody from every aspect holding it together. That’s what we do. It comes from Hoover. It comes from Trussville. It comes from Columbiana. It comes from Gardendale. That is us. That is Birmingham."

The mission warms hearts of volunteers serving the food, like Stephanie Chambless.

“It really puts things in perspective,” said Chambless. “You’re way more grateful for what you have.”

Those receiving the meals are equally as cheerful.

“It’s beautiful,” said Brown. “I’m telling you. It’s like you’re in a restaurant really.”

“It makes me feel warm inside and happy and I like it,” said Karen Crawford, another person using the warming center.

As winter continues, there are no plans to stop this restaurant rotation.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Tamurello. “That’s not an option. It’s something we signed up for. Last year, we didn’t do it but once. This year we’re going on three. So we’ll talk to God and see what he has planned for us for next year.”

Morosini encourages the public to eat at restaurants in the Heart to Table program, so they can continue to bless the community. You can find a list of the participating restaurants on the group's Facebook page here.

All the volunteer slots in Birmingham’s warming station have been filled, but the city says there are still ways for people to help. There’s a need for supplemental food, like prepared soup and sandwiches that can be delivered to Boutwell Auditorium.

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