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Last updated: February 26. 2013 12:23AM - 1924 Views

Joan Clowes listens as Field of Grace pastor Marcelle Dotson addresses a group that gathered Monday at the Hoyt Library to explore the possibility of opening a community cafe for people to eat regardless of their ability to pay.  Don Carey Times Leader Photo
Joan Clowes listens as Field of Grace pastor Marcelle Dotson addresses a group that gathered Monday at the Hoyt Library to explore the possibility of opening a community cafe for people to eat regardless of their ability to pay. Don Carey Times Leader Photo
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KINGSTON — More than 50 people packed a meeting room at the Hoyt Library on Monday to learn what they could do to get a nonprofit café started in the area.


The Rev. Marcelle Dotson and Joan Clowes, co-organizers of the proposed “Café Grace,” explained to a standing-room-only crowd what it’s going to take to make a dream become a reality.


Dotson , the pastor of the Field of Grace Church in Wilkes-Barre, and Clowes, a social worker, met about a year ago while working out at a local gym.


“We bonded over pull-ups,” Clowes said. What started as a casual conversation between the women about local poverty and hunger, developed into an all-out effort to open a pay-as-you-can café, where people of all income levels can share a meal together.


People who can’t afford to pay for their meal can donate an hour of service at the café.


Attendees watched a video about such cafes in other parts of the country that model the same concept they envision for Café Grace.


“Our dream is for the café to become a full-service restaurant, offering three meals a day, six days a week,” Dotson said, adding that the cafe’ will serve only locally grown, organic produce.


The women told the group that a board of directors must be formed before any other plans are made. They encouraged the attendees to volunteer their talents and skills to help bring the concept to fruition.


From legal and financial services to media and culinary skills, the women said, the project will need people with expertise in just about every area.


A location for the café is needed, and several people suggested the former Sacred Heart School on North Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.


“It is vacant, has two stories, a full kitchen and classrooms for outreach programs,” one woman said.


Charles Barber, president of the Luzerne Foundation, urged the women to be realistic in fundraising goals.


“Be very careful how you proceed,” he said. “You need to get a business planand find an existing partner,” perhaps the Commission on Economic Opportunity,” he said. “I like the idea, and I believe it’s coming from the heart, but the money that supports the community is limited.”


Dotson agreed that the café will take a lot of work to get off the ground.


“This is just a small step,” she said. “We have the dream, and we hope it continues to build.”


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