Centre students help Grace Café find a home
Danville’s Rochelle Bayless is working toward fulfilling a dream. She hopes to serve the 25 percent of Boyle County’s population who are considered to be food insecure with the soon-to-open, pay-what-you-can, non-profit community restaurant, Grace Café. And, as always when there’s work to be done, Centre College students are throwing their time, talents and energies into helping Bayless turn the dream into a reality.
When it opens, Grace Café will be the first of its kind in Kentucky and one of only 35 community cafés in the country. It will serve healthy, nutritious meals, and patrons will pay according to the café’s motto: “If your pockets are full, pay a bit more. If your pockets are light, pay what you can. If your pockets are empty, please enjoy a delicious meal in exchange for an hour of volunteer time.”
For now, Bayless is busy raising the necessary funds to allow the café to open its doors and introducing the concept of a pay-what-you-can restaurant to the area. On Jan. 8, Bayless and Chef Shannon Collins hosted the Faith Community Luncheon at the First Presbyterian Church, a fundraiser that also served to introduce local religious leaders to the Grace Café concept. Students in Assistant Professor Kaelyn Wiles’ “Sociology of Food” class volunteered their time at the luncheon by helping with set-up, serving the more than 110 guests and making short work of clean-up afterward.
“The students were invaluable,” Bayless says. “They were incredible.”
In February, Grace Café secured its permanent home at 219 S. Fourth St. Once again, Centre students stood at the ready to be of service, as several Bonner Scholars, organized by project manager Brendan Holly ’18, scrubbed the floors and walls of the café’s future home to prepare the space for painting, which the students will also help with, and eventual occupancy.
“This unique project will be beneficial to so many in the community, so I wanted to help them achieve their goals,” says Abby Vansickle ’18. “So far we have been doing some dirty work—scrubbing floors, cleaning bathrooms— in an effort to get the café up and running as soon as possible.
“Brendan has played a central role in organizing this effort by keeping in touch with the café owners and sharing their needs with us, as well as recruiting all the volunteers,” she continues. “With the help of so many, we have made significant progress and hope to begin painting the interior soon.”
Bayless and Collins are passionate about Grace Café. Bayless, who has a master’s degree from Hartford Seminary, wrote her thesis on the “Theology of Food: Seeing Food as Acts of Grace,” focusing on the connection food has to spirituality and to community.
Collins, trained at Sullivan University, dedicates her talents to farm-to-table cuisine. She is currently the chef at Holly Hill Inn, working with Chef Ouita Michel, a local-sourcing restauranteur with a national reputation.
“Food is my ministry,” Bayless says. “Grace Café is a different type of food charity. It’s one that really tries to restore dignity back into a food-type charity. It’s a hand-up, as opposed to a hand-out.”
Learn more about the mission of Grace Cafe.
by Cindy Long
Photos submitted by Nick Lacy