By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Sunset comes early in November, but the chilly darkness didn’t stop about 150 people from attending “A Heart for the Hungry” fund raiser for Morning Glory Cafe Nov. 14 at the Catholic Center downtown.
In the central loggia, surrounded by 19th century architecture and décor, crooner Frank Cherrito helped set the mood with tunes like “New York,” and other familiar favorites by Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Neil Diamond and of course, Frank Sinatra. People milled about, chatting and enjoying cocktails. They occasionally slipped into the Cardinal Baum Room to nibble on hors d’oeuvres and admire the beautiful decorations.
“It was so much fun!” Karen Miller, director of Morning Glory Ministries, said later. “There were people I knew, and new faces. But everyone was part of the family — donors, volunteers and friends.”
She said that except for about $2,500 in expenses from the event, all proceeds will benefit Morning Glory Ministries, especially the Cafe. The food was donated by Twenty20 Restaurant and Catering.
The Morning Glory Cafe in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception’s Donnelly Hall, opened its doors at 7:30 a.m., Oct. 26, 2010, to feed 36 hungry people.
The Cafe, a partnership between Catholic Charities of Kansas City – St. Joseph, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral’s Episcopal Community Services, provides breakfast and a “to-go” lunch four days a week to 400-500 vulnerable people in downtown Kansas City. The Cafe opens at 7:15 Tuesday through Friday morning. Breakfast, fresh orange juice, coffee, bagels with butter or jelly, cold cereal and oatmeal is served from 7:30-8:30 a.m.
The warm, intimate “cafe” atmosphere allows both regulars and first time guests to feel comfortable and know they are welcome.
Since that first meal, three years ago, the breakfast crowd has increased to 500 homeless and working poor in a typical week. For many clients, it’s a matter of too much month left at the end of the money, Miller said.
Morning Glory Cafe served 40,000 breakfasts and another 40,000 sack lunches for later in the day in 2012. By the close of 2013, Miller said, 44,000 breakfasts and another 44,000 sack lunches will have been served, as well as 4,000 needs met, such as emergency services like rent or utility assistance.
“We have them (the poor and the hungry) for an hour each day to love them as Christ does,” Miller said. “That gives us a different, unique perspective of the people whom we feed. We become a community!”
Father Joseph Powers, rector of the Cathedral, echoed Miller’s comment when he offered Grace before Meals, saying in part, “God is Love. Send down your blessings on those who serve and those who are served.”
A video played during the dinner introduced that community — volunteers and the folks they served. Miller referred to the Morning Glory Cafe, saying, “We have the most amazing kitchen! Volunteers have formed teams, partnerships. Their collaboration is a blessing.” In addition to foodstuffs donated by Harvesters and others, often volunteers bring breakfast casseroles, homemade pastries, fresh fruit or other treats to share with the Cafe’s clients.
“We’re not just an emergency and food service agency,” Miller said in a conversation last year. “We are a community. We use food to be the hands and feet of God, and as a result, we become connected with the people, we hear their stories.”
The video also highlighted some recent success stories: In the past year, Morning Glory Ministries has referred 20 clients to Catholic Charities TurnAround Program, which provides support for families of incarcerated individuals and offers former inmates a new start when they leave prison. Through TurnAround, they receive case management, employment training, mentoring, emergency assistance and help with re-integration needs like birth certificate/ID cards, clothing and treatment referrals.
Morning Glory Ministries helped Jose, a homeless client, connect to Catholic Charities’ housing program. Today he proudly has a place to call home.
Others receive bus passes through a weekly lottery or receive warm coats, scarves, gloves and hats from donors. Morning Glory Ministries is able to connect their clients with services including employment, housing and mental health, through Catholic Charities.
Breakfast clients can also get “hooked up” with Truman Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Services, which provides a comprehensive array of mental health and substance abuse treatments. Behavioral Health Service staff members come weekly to help those who want help.
By coming to the Morning Glory Café for coffee and a hot breakfast, clients can be referred to other services, to help better their lives. As the video emphasized, “Ron, or Mike or Joan or Mary or any one of the clients, know he or she matters.”
Miller said donations from the event continue to come in, and every bit will help. She estimated $26,000 has already been contributed; Morning Glory Ministries’ goal was $28,000, and she has confidence they’ll reach it.
“‘Heart for the Hungry’ was just exactly what we hoped for,” she said. “And so much fun!”