By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — When he heard that a resource board at Café on Vine was going to be named after the late John Kiley, Bishop Martin Amos said he thought it was the “dumbest” thing he’d heard. But after he thought about it, Bishop Amos said, “I couldn’t think of a better thing to do in John’s memory. He was connected (to others) in so many ways.”
During an open house Feb. 24 to thank donors, the John Kiley Memorial Community Resource Board was unveiled. Kiley served as director of social action for the Diocese of Davenport at the time of his death in February 2009. He had worked toward helping those in need his whole life in various capacities.
Dan Ebener, vice president of Thomas Merton House Inc., which oversees Café on Vine, thanked the donors who helped fund and continue to support Café on Vine since it opened in November 2007. Through the organizing efforts of Kiley, the café formerly operated by John Lewis Community Services Inc., was able to be re-established on solid footing and under new ownership. The café serves one meal each day to those in need.
Ebener told the donors, “We couldn’t have made this work without your time, talent and financial assistance. Thank you for making this such a special place.
“John put a lot of time into this project,” Ebener said. “It is very fitting to have his picture and a resource board (on site).”
Ebener said Kiley always was networking. And if he wasn’t networking for himself, he was introducing others to networking. “We see signs of his life and energy here.”
Bishop Amos said Kiley “made everyone feel like his best friend. This resource board will connect people. It’s a perfect representation of him.”
After the bishop said a prayer, Sister Ruth E. Westmoreland, OSF, Café on Vine’s coordinator, thanked the paid staff and many volunteers who help serve meals. Because of the increase in people coming for meals, Sr. Westmoreland said Amy Fortney, chief cook and bottle washer, needed more help. Two people were hired to split one position to assist her. They primarily help on weekends and when needed during the week.
During Café on Vine’s first year of service, 43,675 meals were served; that figure increased to 56,618 meals in the second year. “We’re now steady — which is enough for us,” Sr. Westmoreland said.
The number of regular volunteers serving on a daily basis also has grown — from five to 30.
Sr. Westmoreland was excited to announce a new vestibule will be built on the west side of the building. That will become the primary entrance and also will be handicapped accessible. She hopes the addition will reduce the café’s heating and cooling costs.
Although Sr. Westmoreland worked with Kiley for less than six months, she said she realized “he was not an ordinary person. He did things with flair.”
The primary purpose of the café is to serve meals to the hungry. But guests often ask where they can go for help. At the suggestion of United Way of the Quad-Cities Area, the café’s board decided to offer a way for patrons to connect with the resources they need.
A volunteer helped build a wooden and glass resource case that hangs on a café wall. The resource center houses information and a referral line for United Way. “I tested it out; it really worked,” Sr. Westmoreland said.
The resource center also contains information on where to go for job searches, transportation, free showers, community health care, homeless drop-in clinics, meal sites, laundry, food pantries, shelters and clothing centers. It will be updated as needed.
Kiley’s wife, Katie, was present at the unveiling and thank you. “I was very gratified by the John Kiley Memorial Resource Board established at the Cafe on Vine in my husband’s memory, and so touched by the kind introduction given by Dan Ebener and the generous (and humorous) comments from Bishop Amos.
“It is such a practical, down-to-earth and fitting tribute to John’s tireless efforts to help and connect the people of our community in order to make it a better place for all. Regrettably, I can’t cite the names of all who were involved, but I would like to thank everyone who dedicated the many hours of creative thought and action to realize this memorial, and for their ongoing love for John and his inspired work,” she said on behalf of the family afterward.
Ebener said some people have a skyscraper or building named after them. “John has a resource board.”