By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — The Morning Glory Café in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception’s Donnelly Hall opened its doors at 7:30 a.m., Oct. 26, 2010 to 36 hungry people. Since that first meal, attendance at the breakfast café has increased to 500 in a typical week.
Especially on a cold morning, a hot breakfast, orange juice and coffee can help a homeless man or woman start their day with hope and a smile.
“Coffee brought me here,” Mike said. “It’s a place, a peaceful place to come and I feel safe.”
Mike, who suffers from depression and has some difficulty concentrating, has enjoyed the coffee, oatmeal, sausage and egg burritos and other breakfast treats at the café. He also recently “hooked up” with Truman Medical Center’s Behavioral Health services, which provides a comprehensive array of mental health and substance abuse treatments. “They come on Wednesdays to help people like me,” he said.
Karen Miller, director of Morning Glory Ministries, said the great majority of their guests come every day. “We use food to be the hands and feet of God,” she said, “and as a result, we become connected with the people, we hear their stories.”
Mike looked around at the men and a few women sipping coffee, chatting and waiting for numbers in a bus pass lottery to be called. “Lots of people come here,” he said. “More come as the month goes on and their check gets spent. The food is good, but the smiles of the people who work here and eat here are better than the food!”
Miller explained that when Catholic Charities moved to the Catholic Center, “they gave us an allotment of bus tickets to distribute. Every Tuesday through Friday morning there is a lottery, which was the most fair way to give the guys an opportunity to win. Also, some are reserved for people who need to get to a doctor’s appointment or job interview, too.”
She said the volunteer support is amazing. “Twenty five parishes on both sides of the state line regularly send volunteers; Rockhurst High School and Rockhurst University, Catholic and private high schools, UMKC, the Diocese and Catholic Charities, all have regular volunteers. They arrive at 6:30 a.m., and set up, serve breakfast from 7:30-8:30 and then clean up. St. Gabriel’s eighth grade religion class has come — what a way to learn about your faith and apply it!”
She said the food comes from Harvesters, restaurants and grocery stores through food rescue programs. “We pay retail for milk and orange juice. But we recently struck up a relationship with Consentino’s here downtown, and maybe that’ll help with costs. Volunteers and others also donate food: egg casseroles, muffins, fruit, oh and one of the chefs at a local country club makes gravy for us sometimes. We buy biscuits at Sam’s Club and what a treat for our guests — biscuits and gravy!”
Morning Glory Café is one of 26 parish based ministries that receive grants funded through donations to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
Mike straightened his baseball cap and wrapped his hands around his coffee cup.
“The people who donate food, I’ll never meet them,” he said, “never get to shake their hand and say ‘thank you.’ But I hope they know they help me get in the right frame of mind.”
Robert has been coming to the Morning Glory Café since it opened. I had been living on the streets for three or four years. My physical health wasnt good and it escalated out of control; I lost my job. I have a degree in business management, but Im almost 60 and I couldnt get hired anywhere full time. Employers want someone younger. This place, this is where I could eat, feel comfortable and know that people cared.
He praised Miller with gratitude. “Karen has been good to me. This place helped me get a leg up. Karen was able to help me meet people who could supply me with what I needed to rent an apartment and get some furniture. This place is a godsend to the people of this community.”
Miller also feels blessed. “We have them for an hour each day to love them as Christ does,” she said. “That hour of love gives us a different, unique perspective of the people whom we feed. We become a community!”
And communities work together to fill each other’s needs. Last month, Miller said, the emergency services office began opening an hour earlier to be accessible to Morning Glory Café guests. Legal Aid representatives come once a month to assist with any legal issues or questions the guests might have.
“I have been so blessed,” Robert said, “and I’ll be forever grateful! They never shut the door in our faces, they always left it open for us. I’m still looking for full-time work, but I volunteer to give back. I come here five or six times a month to keep in touch and say ‘Thanks. You’ve helped me restore my faith in my fellow man.”
He added, “These people are so real, never phony. You can sense it when you interface with them.”
Miller said this year they will have served 40,000 breakfasts and another 40,000 sack lunches for later in the day. The 2013 projection is 45,000 breakfasts.
“We started as a little church ministry,” she said, “that’s not little any more.” o