CafÉ Hope is a ministry of community, a family more than anything else. On the first three Saturdays of every month, a handful of women serve hearty comfort food to anyone who walks through the door, whether they are in desperate need of a meal or have merely come to look at the art.
CafÉ Hope is not really a cafÉ, it is tables and chairs set up in an art gallery. The meals are cooked at home and then taken to the 14th Street Artist Community gallery,
"It was designed to not just feed the community but to bring fellowship and encouragement to the community. Pretty much to show people that we care," said
CafÉ Hope began around three years ago, when church member
"It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, everybody needs encouragement."
As word about the program has spread, it has become more popular. Now, an average of about 60 people attend each week, with several arriving early to be assured of getting the food. The meal is nearly all made from scratch, and the servings are all-you-can-eat.
The women serve food from
On a day they serve ground beef with gravy and mashed potatoes, you'd better get there early. The ham hocks and green beans are big, too.
"If by chance we have anything extra, the ones who know will check back with us and bring their containers. We never throw anything away."
Some of the people from the community who come for food have started to stay to help out. One woman sometimes helps them serve while others help to clean up and take out the trash. And some of the people now come back on Sundays to attend the church services.
All of this is a labor of love for the women involved, who receive no compensation and in fact pay for most of the food themselves. They do not solicit donations but are happy to accept them (CafÉ Hope c/o Calvary CafÉ,
"She said, 'I have to do something. What can I do?'"
One thing she does is bake. So now, every week that CafÉ Hope is open, she gets together with friends to bake all the desserts.
But the program is more than about the food, Shelton insists. "We have people who come consistently, whom we have built close relationships with. We are one big family," she said.
"We've had people say they not only enjoy the food, they enjoy the respect. They enjoy people talking to them intelligently."
It is Shelton's hope that other churches that do not already have similar programs will start their own, perhaps picking different days to serve.
"There are churches all over the place. If we came together as God's people, we could reach a lot of people."
(c)2014 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services