Originally Posted Online: Sept. 06, 2013, 4:00 am
Last Updated: Sept. 07, 2013, 11:38 pm

Blessings 'runneth over' at month-old King Cafe

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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

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Photo: John Greenwood
The month-old King Cafe partnership program between St. Pius Catholic X Church and the King Center is designed to help members from the former St. Joseph's Church. These patrons said they enjoy coffee, conversation and fellowship. At right is the Rev. Dwight Ford, of the Martin Luther King Center.

ROCK ISLAND -- Coffee pots have "runneth over" a few times, but King Cafe patrons at the King Center have kept plenty of smiles on their mugs.

In its first month of operation, the new cafe has drawn 15 to 23 people daily, according to the Rev. Dwight Ford, executive director at the center, 630 Martin Luther King Drive.

"It has become an ecosystem of conversation-building, where we have established a group of regulars who attend weekly, and we believe more and more people are becoming aware of the opportunity," he said. "At this stage, we couldn't ask for more."

The cafe is open from 8 to 10 a.m. weekdays.

Donations of coffee, tea, pastries, bagels, breakfast breads, coffee cups, silverware and money to support the new effort also have poured in, "and we are appreciative of the groups and individuals who have come out to support the King Cafe," Rev. Ford said.

The only tough times organizers faced early on was "getting the coffee pots to work or to not overflow," according to Mary Grace Boland, from the co-sponsoring St. Pius X Catholic Church in Rock Island.

Opening the cafe was part of the church's mission to better serve the city's west-end community,once served by St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which closed at 1316 2nd Ave., in 2005 and was demolished two years later.

Peoria Diocesan Bishop Daniel Jenky and St. Pius priest the Rev. Michael Schaab asked the parish's Faith and Action committee to explore collaborative partnerships with local organizations to address peoples' needs and integrate social-justice programs throughout parish and community life, according to earlier reports.

King Cafe evolved from that, targeting west-end residents and new immigrants and refugees.

"And it's not just for Catholics," Rev. Ford said. "It's open to people of any denomination."

Ms. Boland was among the early group of St. Pius planners who got involved and said it has been a great way to meet and interact with people, and "to share hospitality." The Bible refers to hospitality many times, she added.

For example, Hebrews 13:2 reads: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."

Vodell Smith said she comes from Davenport every day to the King Cafe. "I love the camaraderie. It's a nice place with nice people who are very sociable. A lot of pleasantries get shared."

Longtime friend Don Payton has made it to the cafe all but one day. He missed the Aug. 1 opener because of earlier plans, "but I get here a little after 8 every day and help set everything up and get things rolling," he said.

Rev. Ford credited Mr. Payton for the cafe-creation idea, but Mr. Payton said it was Rev. Ford's doing. "I'm hoping we can add some sausage biscuits or bacon or something like that soon," Mr. Payton said.

"Yes, we want to expand the menu of food and the menu of services and opportunities we offer at the cafe," Rev. Ford said. "What we want to do is utilize this as a springboard to offer more day programming for senior citizens."

Ideas include bringing in guest speakers, book club discussions and independent living skills demonstrations, he said

"And we joke a lot about solving the world's problems over a good cup of coffee," Rev. Ford said, as long as the coffee doesn't "runneth" all over the floor.