By: Kristen Hegel
Last week, Fort Mill’s very own Community Cafe served its 2,000 meal. The cafe, based out of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Fort Mill, is a place to go to get a free homemade meal and help serve others. Meals are served between 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. every Wednesday night. The cafe isn’t modeled to be a soup kitchen, but rather a place for the community to come together and enjoy a meal.
The Fort Mill Community Cafe began this past summer on June 1, serving free lunch and dinner every Wednesday. It is the second of two Community Cafes; the first began in Lake Wylie in January of 2010. Both community cafes combined have served over 20,000 meals. “Now it’s already 26,000,” Don Murfin, head chef at the Lake Wylie Community Cafe, said. Within a few months of Lake Wylie’s Community Cafe opening, the Wednesday night crowd grew from 45 people to over 400 people. According to Murfin, Fort Mill’s Community Cafe has pulled in an even larger crowd than Lake Wylie’s.
“It’s basically what I’m hoping for, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. If a person’s hungry Wednesday, they’re hungry Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – every day,” Pastor Carlwell Culp of Bethlehem Baptist Church said. “You get a mixture. You get some that need the meal, and you get some that need the fellowship.” With people struggling to make ends meet in the current economy, the Community Cafe gives a sense of community.
“Some days we have more, some days we have less,” Kevin Saunders, a volunteer at Bethlehem Baptist, said. “Like Pastor Culp says, we need to be doing God’s business.” According to Saunders, all varieties of people come to the café, and for many locals it’s becoming a Wednesday dinner routine. “It’s tough times,” Saunders said. “So what should we do? Lean on each other.”
Pastor Culp plans to apply for a nonprofit designation and to upgrade the church’s kitchen so more food can be served. Culp’s main goal is to eventually be able to serve free meals on a daily basis, not just once a week. “I definitely want to move to every day,” Culp said. “That’s been my goal since we started this.”