Even though the Family Hope Center in the Merit Inn in Kenai has closed, The Way Café is still cooking low-priced meals.
But because Love INC’s transitional living center at the Merit Inn has closed, people seem to think that the cafe is no longer open said volunteer organizer of the café Yvonne Meek.
“We don’t have nearly as many people coming in as we did,” Meek said.
To raise awareness that the café is still open, the First Baptist Church of Kenai — which runs the café — has stuck a sign along the Kenai Spur Highway near Wells Fargo Bank in Kenai to inform people when it is open.
“Hopefully with that … we will again be able to serve people who are in need,” Meek said.
Not only are people unaware that the café is still open, but many of the café’s customers were families living at the Family Hope Center. Those families that were living at the center either moved out of town, to apartments where they have a kitchen or are living on the street, Meek said.
When the Family Hope Center was open, the café served 25 to 30 people per day on average. Meek is now asking her cooks to prepare food for 10 to 15 people each evening.
The café serves its evening meal from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and will remain open for the rest of July and August. At the end of August, Meek said, First Baptist will know whether the church will “truly be able to serve the people that are in need.” The owner of the Merit Inn is trying to sell the building, and, until that happens, the café will operate on a month-to-month basis, Meek said.
Before the café opened in June 2011, the church surveyed the community to see what need the church could serve. Originally it sought to help homeless teens by providing meals, but the café has served more families in need than teens. If the café had to close, Meek said there would be children and adults who would go hungry.
But, as long as the church has a place, volunteers and finances, Meek said it plans to serve meals somewhere.
“We don’t plan on … shutting the doors,” Meek said, “People are still contributing to this cause. In fact, this week we had more contributed than we spent on what we served.”
Donations from throughout the community fund the café.
Meals cost $3 for adults. Anyone 18 years old and younger is free.
However, if an adult can’t afford the meal Meek said, “We never turn anyone away.”
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.