Now that’s a lot of pizza pies.
There were 120 of them, wood-fired and served free Wednesday afternoon. The effort was the latest in local businesses pitching in to help the Community Cafe.
“Community: it’s the true sense of the word,” said Glen Roberts, chef at the cafe hosted by Fort Mill Community Bible Church.
True Crafted Pizza, in Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood, brought a food truck and four employees for the Wednesday service. A brick oven on the side pumped out cheese-and-pepperoni pizzas as fast as guests could thank them.
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“It sounded like a great thing,” co-owner Ken Martino said while prepping dough in the parking lot off East Elliot Street. “So we offered just to bring the truck over.”
Roberts and his staff didn’t take the day off. They also served hot soup and sandwiches inside the church. An hour into the free lunch service, they already had well exceeded the previous week’s total.
“Every week we just grow,” Roberts said. “Every week we’re growing by 25 to 30 percent.”
True Crafted Pizza started a line Wednesday by its food truck, but employees also took their place in one. Publix, Toast Cafe, Cup Crazed, Starbucks, the Peach Stand, U.S. Food Service and Great Harvest Bread Co. are just some of the regular contributors to what organizers see as a community gathering every week.
“They all donate regularly to us, every week,” said Mary Rasmussen, who contacts community partners for, and volunteers with, the cafe. “Lots of people do want to help us.”
The Fort Mill location, one of three, served more than 200 meals the Wednesday before and were well ahead of that pace as the pizza truck donated its services. The Fort Mill location also is taking over in-home delivery for residents in need, previously served by locations in Lake Wylie and the first that opened in Fort Mill, just outside Tega Cay.
Because Community Cafe receives no government funding, it can provide however many meals it wants to whatever group it wants. The Fort Mill location is working with the Fort Mill Care Center to see which clients there can use a food delivery on days they operate.
“It kind of picks up where the Fort Mill Care Center leaves off,” Rasmussen said.
The cafe gets donations from free bread to the walk-in freezer donated by Domino’s that the church has to pour a concrete slab to install. Eventually, the cafe wants to add a food bank.
All three locations serve those in need of meals but also people wanting to gather for the fellowship. Organizers envision a shared experience, with people who otherwise might never cross paths. In a single week in January, the cafes served almost 900 meals.
Don Murfin, a Fort Mill resident who began the cafes in Lake Wylie five years ago, said his group is budgeting and planning for more meals in 2015 than 2014.
“The first three weeks have started off like a bang, keeping the momentum from last year,” he said. “Total number of meals served is up 55 percent over the same period of last year.”
Organizers count meals but are more concerned with less quantifiable statistics, like how many people receive encouragement or have a better day for having visited.
Crystal Pearson visited the Fort Mill location three times, finally deciding to give the church that hosts it a try on a Sunday morning.
“That’s what made me start coming to the church,” she said. “It opened up my heart.”