Celebrating community support for Davenport’s Café on Vine


By Barb Arland-Fye

Maribeth Green and Kathy Loomis serve lunch and drinks to patrons at Café on Vine in Davenport.

DAVENPORT — Café on Vine has served more than a quarter-million free meals in the six years since opening in 2007, thanks to ongoing community support. In gratitude, Café on Vine is hosting its fourth annual “Fiesta for Volunteers” on Saturday, June 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the café located at Sixth and Vine streets. Food donated by Ganzo’s restaurant will be served at no cost to patrons and volunteers.
“Our ability to serve so many people wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous outpouring of support we’ve seen from our community,” said Jim Tiedje, board chair for Café on Vine. “This is about saying thank you to the many people and our neighbors who help us operate and to carry out our mission to end hunger.”
Café on Vine serves a meal seven days a week, 365 days a year, the only one to do so in the Davenport area, Sister Ruth E. Westmoreland, the café’s coordinator, said. As many as 500 volunteers participate in some way during the year, either through donations of food or by helping to prepare and serve a meal, she added. The café employs just four individuals (equivalent to three, full-time employees), so volunteers are vitally important to the café’s operation. Individual volunteers help serve meals each week while members of church and civic groups volunteer on weekends. Having paid staff “ensures that we have a staff member here every day. It’s important for planning,” Sr. Westmoreland said.
Meals are served 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 1 p.m. Saturday and 4:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday. Sister Ludmilla Benda, RSM, provides a noontime meal on Sundays at Father Conroy’s Vineyard of Hope. No other free meal service in the Davenport area provides an evening meal to the public on Sunday, so Café on Vine fills that gap, Sr. Westmoreland said. “They’re needed to serve evenings,” Sr. Benda said. “It’s a long time from noon until you go to bed.”
In addition, Congregation of the Humility of Mary (CHM) associates prepare 90 meat and cheese sandwiches every holiday at Café on Vine to give to people staying at Humility of Mary Shelter in Davenport who might otherwise not have a meal that day. (Sr. Benda serves a meal on holidays at Fr. Conroy’s.) Pat Knopick, coordinator of the CHM associates, already has a group lined up for sandwich assembly on Fourth of July.
“A group of us goes down to the café to make sandwiches and we’re happy to do that,” Knopick said. Shelter guests come to pick up the sandwiches, along with a bag of chips and bars or cookies. The associates enjoy the opportunity to mingle with some of the patrons who stop in.
Café on Vine sees new patrons every day — “we know because they’ll ask, ‘where’s the silverware and where do we put our dishes?’” Sr. Westmoreland said, but the number of patrons visiting the meal site has dropped by about eight or nine people per day. “We’ll have served about 44,500 meals for the 2013 fiscal year compared with about 48,000 for the last fiscal year,” she said. “We’re pleased about that; we see that as a positive thing.”
Some patrons have left the area while others may have made inroads in acquiring a job, she said. How that bodes for the future is not easy to predict, Tiedje noted. “It’s a little bit soon to determine what next year is going to be like. You have to be ready for whatever happens.”

To help:
Cash donations and volunteers are always needed at Café on Vine.
Donations may be sent to: Café on Vine, P.O. Box 3375, Davenport, Iowa, 52808. To volunteer, call (563) 324-4472.

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