Last updated: February 23. 2013 2:47PM - 616 Views

Marcelle Dotson, pastor of the Field of Grace United Methodist Church in Wilkes-Barre, talks about establishing a Community Café in the Wyoming Valley within the year where anyone can eat, regardless of the ability to pay for a meal.
Marcelle Dotson, pastor of the Field of Grace United Methodist Church in Wilkes-Barre, talks about establishing a Community Café in the Wyoming Valley within the year where anyone can eat, regardless of the ability to pay for a meal.
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KINGSTON – A nonprofit cafe that would help feed the hungry while fostering a sense of community hopefully will open sometime this year in the Wyoming Valley, its organizer says.
Marcelle Dotson, pastor of Field of Grace United Methodist Church, Wilkes-Barre, is spearheading an effort to open a “Community Cafe,” where “everyone can eat, regardless of the ability to pay.”
Dotson, 53, has called a meeting for Monday evening at the Hoyt Library, and more than 40 people already have signed up to attend to learn how they can help get the fledgling project off the ground.
“It’s for everyone,” Dotson said. “You pay if you can. You will be able to have a healthy meal and interact with your fellow community members.”
People with the ability to pay can donate the suggested meal price, or more, Dotson said. Those people who can’t afford to pay can donate an hour of volunteer service to the cafe as greeters, dishwashers, servers and meal preparers, she said.
The concept is based on the model developed by the One World Everybody Eats Foundation, an outgrowth of the nonprofit community cafe, One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“This will be the entire community working together to address the issue of hunger,” Dotson said. “People who can afford to pay will be together with those who are struggling. They can share their stories; it takes the stigmas away.”
Dotson said the concept is a more creative way to feed the hungry than traditional soup kitchens and food banks. All of those are needed in the community, she said, but the Community Cafe will provide a relaxed atmosphere conducive to conversation.
When the cafe initially opens, Dotson said, it will serve one meal per week. Meals will be prepared with fresh organic food – no canned food – and the entrees will depend on what’s available, she said.
Area farmers will be asked to donate food, and the money donated for the meals will go back into the operation, Dotson said.
A site for the cafe has not been identified. Dotson has been looking at possible sites on both sides of the Susquehanna River. “We would love to find a place with a kitchen,” she said. “And we want to be in a place where people could walk in each day.”
Dotson attended a training session at a cafe in New Brunswick, N.J., and she visited the Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, N.J., the latter of which was founded by rocker Jon Bon Jovi, she said. “I was very impressed by the facilities I visited,” she said. “It gives you a strong sense of the need for these cafes.”
The organization will apply for nonprofit status and a board of directors will be formed, Dotson said. A chef will be hired and probably will be the only paid employee.
“The local statistics I’ve seen show there are a lot of children not eating well in our community,” Dotson said. “And the economic situation doesn’t appear to be getting any better anytime soon.”
Once the cafe is established, said Dotson, she wants to develop an organic garden at which people can grow their own foods and take classes on nutrition and proper diet.
“We want to help people move toward self-sufficiency,” she said. “We want everyone to have access to healthy food. We’re thinking big, but starting small.”

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