The Community Cafe is coming back to downtown Fort Mill.
Sisk Memorial Baptist Church will open the newest cafe Aug. 18. Hot, free lunches will be served 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. every Thursday. The new site makes three cafes operating in York County offering free meal service to the community.
Don Murfin, head chef with the cafe since it began in 2010, said several Fort Mill churches invited his group in to discuss a new cafe after Fort Mill Community Bible Church closed its weekly service in April.
“While all applauded what was being done, the fit was not right until we talked with Sisk Memorial Baptist,” Murfin said. “Everything just came together – location, visibility in the community, appropriateness of their gathering space and size of their kitchen, the level of excitement within the church of everyone we talked to, and the commitment to really get behind the Cafe and make it happen.”
Sisk had a recent kitchen renovation that helped. It has a regular luncheon for seniors. It has members already signed on to volunteer at the new cafe. The pastor also has a close family connection with one of the Lake Wylie pastors who launched the first Community Cafe.
“To me,” Murfin said, “that is God at work confirming we picked the right place through His guidance.”
Steve Simmons, business administrator at Sisk, says the fit is as good for his church as it is for Murfin’s group.
“They needed a specific downtown location,” Simmons said. “The biggest thing about why it’s a good idea is, feeding people fits perfectly within the mission of the church. There was just no reason not to do it.”
Simmons hadn’t been to a Cafe lunch, but learned quickly what to expect.
“They’ve been doing it for years,” he said. “They’re sincere in what they’re doing. It’s obvious they know what they’re doing.”
Sisk has many retirees, a key demographic in supporting the Cafe dependent on volunteers.
“It’s going to make a difference in this congregation,” Simmons said. “Because it is different, way different, people will want to be a part of it.”
Starting at River Hills Community Church, the Cafe now operates at Lake Wylie Christian Assembly in Lake Wylie on Tuesdays and Lake Wylie Lutheran Church in Fort Mill on Fridays. One operated for more than a year at Fort Mill Community Bible Church. Another ran for more than a year at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Fort Mill, before being turned over to the church as its own ministry.
The Sisk opening gives the Cafe three lunch services a week again.
“When the Cafe of Fort Mill Community Bible Church closed the end of April, all of the shut-in deliveries were shifted to the Cafe at Lake Wylie Lutheran,” Murfin said. “Now with a presence in the downtown Fort Mill area, we will move that program to the Sisk Cafe just because of the reduction in travel time to get to those we serve.”
The Cafe already has several corporate partners, donating anything from food and freezer space to cups and cash. The group won a community service award earlier this year from a Charlotte television station. Corporate giving, food drives and other help have been key for the group that never charges for a meal.
“The tough part is always to stay within budget, so the meals we prepare are largely determined by the cash donations we receive,” Murfin said.
Last year, the Cafes served 55,000 meals combined. They expect to serve their 200,000th meal later this year.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever contemplate such growth,” Murfin said.