Future unclear for cafe that serves those in need

KENAI — The future is unclear for a church-run cafe in Kenai that provides low-priced meals for families and individuals in need.

The landlord plans to sell the building that houses The Way Cafe, and it will be up to the new owner whether the establishment is allowed to continue serving meals there, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

Yvonne Meek, the cafe’s volunteer organizer, said it’s the best location organizers have found because people can walk to the cafe. She hopes the new owner will consider that.

Joel Backus, who has helped with the cafe from the beginning, said volunteers could serve from First Baptist Church of Kenai as a last resort, as they did when the café first started. But he said the church is not in a convenient location.

The cafe saw a drop in patrons after a nearby transitional living center for families with children closed in June. Meek said that’s because people thought the cafe had closed, too.

The cafe had been preparing food for 10 to 15 people per meal after the Family Hope Center at the Merit Inn closed, but since then, Meek said the number of people the cafe feeds has been growing.

Backus said since August, the cafe has had anywhere from six to 45 people at its evening meals Monday through Friday. Meals cost $3 per adult. They’re free to anyone under 18.

Meek attributed the wide range in numbers to the day of the month and when patrons get paid.

“When they have money of their own, sometimes they buy a meal for themselves” elsewhere, she said.

Meek and Backus have received help from throughout the community over the two years the cafe has been operating. Leroy Whit is a new volunteer.

Whit, a certified food service manager, said he lived on the streets 30 years ago and wants to help kids in similar situations.

“I enjoy doing what I do, cooking, and I enjoy working with kids,” Whit said.

Backus said the cafe has a strong core group of volunteers, but could always use cooks. He is moving to Texas soon to be with his family. He said volunteers are needed to take over the maintenance work.

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