Just before 11:30 a.m. Monday, Faith Café volunteers hurriedly set tables, unpacked the day’s lunch and poured glasses of iced tea and lemonade.
As they rushed to get everything ready, a member of the café’s board of director’s made a last-minute announcement: Everyone is excited, but let the guests eat in peace. Don’t overwhelm them.
After a final prayer and a loud round of applause, the doors to Faith Café – now housed in a brand-new building at 1340 N. Clearview Ave. – opened eight months after the charity left its longtime home on Kennedy Boulevard.
The 30 volunteers who showed up on opening day to serve hot dogs and pasta to the needy far outnumbered the handful of people who came to eat. But within a few days, after word gets out, the dining area’s 80 or so seats will be full, volunteers said.
“By the end of the week, we’ll have a line all the way down to the end of the street,” said Tom Little, a member of the café’s board of directors.
The café, run by volunteers with help from Metropolitan Ministries, serves free lunches to poor and homeless people from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
“We’re really happy to be back to doing that,” said Aubrey Smith, president of the café’s board of directors. “That’s our thing; not building buildings.”
The café served about 600 meals a week at its previous location, 3702 W. Kennedy Blvd., where it had been since 2001, Smith said. Last summer the owner of the Kennedy Boulevard property asked the board of directors to move the café somewhere else.
So the board began construction of the new building, which was funded by donations from the community, Smith said. It has a larger kitchen, better air-conditioning and more space for the charity’s clothing pantry, the “Angel’s Closet.”
“It’s been fabulous that we’ve been able to accomplish this just with all volunteers,” Smith said.
The café was supposed to begin serving again in late February, but last-minute paperwork and code procedures delayed the opening about one month.
Volunteers said the new building is much nicer and cleaner than the old one.
“It’s wonderful; we needed it so badly,” said volunteer Jean Smith.
As they served the meals, volunteers chatted with diners and gave them “goody bags” full of socks, washcloths, soap and shampoo.
Robert Kelley was one of the three diners who came in on opening day. He never ate at Faith Café’s previous location, he said, although he came close to needing to do so.
Unemployed for years, he said he has been able to keep a house nearby by picking up odd jobs here and there. He wanted to “check out what the new café was all about.”
“It’s fantastic,” Kelley said. “I wish there were more people here.”