Centre College Bonner Scholar Jimmy Robinson ’18 recently joined the board of directors at Grace Café, a non-profit, “pay-what-you-can” restaurant committed to ending hunger in the Danville community by providing access to fresh, locally sourced, nutritious food.
“I first got involved with Grace Café in the spring semester of my first year at Centre,” Robinson said. “This was actually before they were up and running, so most of the work involved cleaning and painting to make it look like an actual restaurant. I began volunteering there because I wanted it to be my primary service site that semester as a member of the Bonner Program.”
After the café was open, Robinson volunteered a few times waiting or busing tables, then later was lucky enough to be involved in Assistant Professor of Sociology Kaelyn Wiles’ research methods course, which used sociological research methods to evaluate how well Grace Café was fulfilling their mission against hunger in the community.
“As it turns out, our research as a class was able to demonstrate the overwhelmingly positive impact Grace Café has had on hunger in the community, which helped them secure some additional funding,” he added. “Now I am on the Board of Directors and am currently getting a feel for everything that comes with the position.”
According to Grace Café founder and Executive Director Rochelle Bayless, every year they select a Centre senior to serve on the board, which is referred to as the “Centre Chair.”
“Robinson just really stood out among a whole group of Centre students who are also very qualified and engaged in the café,” Bayless said. “It’s his work from the very beginning of our operation and helping us and following us through our evolution over the past three years, as well as his work with the sociological study that made him stand out as being a very good candidate.”
As a board member, Robinson has the opportunity to gain a more in-depth understanding of the non-profit, including how they govern themselves, as well as manage and work through their operational processes. This role also gives him real-world experience as he prepares for his professional career.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what being on the board of a nonprofit is like and figuring out how I can best use my strengths as a Centre student,” he said. “I’m also eager to spend time with community members who have contributed so much and working with them to help Grace Café make further progress toward its mission.”
Bayless said she thinks he’s going to help them not only reinforce and strengthen their current relationship with Centre but also help them do more advocacy work with some of the new students who may not be familiar with their mission.
“We are just starting our third full year of operation, and we are very grateful to Centre and the student participation,” she concluded. “We could not have made as much of an impact as we have without them.
“Centre students are a critical part of working our mission and helping us to fulfill our goal of making sure everyone in our community has access to fresh, local and healthy food.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
February 6, 2018