A local woman with a vision to feed the hungry is opening a community cafe where patrons will pay what they can afford.
Karen J. Cook, 43, of Middleboro, is holding a fundraiser on Sunday to benefit the All Are Welcome Community Kitchen and Bakery Inc., where she will be executive director.
“Everything will be freshly prepared, with restaurant-quality service. It’s not leftovers. It’s not seconds,” said Cook, who previously worked at a food pantry at a Plymouth church and was a manager at Papa Gino’s in Middleboro.
Middleboro’s unemployment rate – which was 7.6 percent in November, the most recent figure available – confirmed for Cook that “there’s hungry people real close by.”
Cook said her restaurant, which will open in February, is based on a grassroots model from the One World Everybody Eats Foundation.
“I will be the 19th in the nation,” Cook said.
Initially, she will serve lunch two days a week and breakfast on Saturdays at the Church of Our Saviour’s parish hall, 60 Union St. Her goal is to serve at least 50 people a day, but there’s room to feed 200, she said.
Cook said she will volunteer her time at first and won’t collect a salary until donations cover 30 percent of the costs. Currently, Cook is the lone volunteer.
To run the kitchen, she will apply for grants, seek local donations, ask local colleges to supply interns and hold fundraising events.
The cost of meals will range from $10 to $15 and be posted on a blackboard.
“If customers can afford a meal, great. If they can only afford $8, we’ll take that,” Cook said. “Those who can’t afford the meal can volunteer in our kitchen, or in the community.”
Cook said statistics from the One World Everybody Eats Foundation found that 1 to 2 percent of customers at these pay-what-you-can eateries abuse the system, but 20 percent will pay more than the posted price.
“Most honest folks in need will look to give back instead of just taking,” Cook said. “Volunteering is an incredible esteem booster.”
So far, Cook has raised $1,000 toward her goal of $5,000 to open, and she believes a road race will put her over the top.
The 5.5K “Run for Your Lunch” road race is set for Sunday at 1 p.m., beginning at the North Congregational Church, 38 Plymouth St. Tickets are $20 to run and $10 for the chowder meal after the race. For more information, call Cook at 508-443-0243 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
George D. Glidden, former owner of Nathan’s Place on North Main Street where he served free meals once a month until he closed in 2007, confirmed the need.
“I think right now, because of the weather and the economy, you’re going to find a lot of people coming; I’m talking families,” Glidden said.
David Beberman of Middleboro, who is an IT business analyst, is on the board of directors for the new community cafe.
Cook said she is in the process of filing paperwork with the state to be a certified non-profit organization. The cafe will be open to all, not just Middleboro residents.
“The need is fairly obvious. Just look around, everyone is trying to make ends meet,” Beberman said. “The moral responsibility for all of us is: if you see something that can be done, your moral responsibility is you should do it.”
On the Web
One World Everybody Eats Foundation: www.oneworldeverybodyeatsfoundation.org/our-organization/history/