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CAFé. On November 13, 2019, members of FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST celebrated the 25th anniversary of CAFé, (Christians Activated to Feed). Beginning in 1994 with a meal cooked at church for approximately twenty men who were residents of the IOWA INN, the ministry in 2020 was providing a nutritious meal (and leftovers to be taken home) for as many as 170 individuals including many families.

J. Faye Wolfe, a dynamic leader and member of the church with a long history in food service, took over the leadership of the program. Initiating a rotating schedule including Beef Week, Italian Week, Chicken Week, and Cook's Choice, a Thursday night favorite was soon in operation. Congregation members provided casseroles, salads, and desserts with hot dogs and donated Wendy's chili. Volunteers from the church comprised the CAFé Steering Committee. Soon volunteers from ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL, FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, and local organizations joined in as regular food providers and kitchen crew.

The position developed by Faye Wolfe was taken over by Nikki Ketchum. Other changes resulted from a survey of the guests. One of the findings was that the people enjoyed homemade meals best. This resulted in the use of fresh or frozen foods and a move away from processed items. Menus by 2020 were also adjusted to seasonal donations including vegetables and fruits. Main courses are prepared at the church with members contributing desserts, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Knowing exactly how many guests would arrive was impossible leading to preparation of food to feed two hundred people. Guests are offered seconds and containers to take additional food home for the next day. Leftovers were packed up and delivered to Theresa Shelter. The only time this latter service was not possible was the last Thursday of the month when food stamps ran out and attendance at the church supper soared.

The volunteers at CAFé have changed over the years as well as the organizations they represented. In 2020 First Congregation had approximately thirteen large volunteers groups. This was in addition to students who regularly attended from CLARKE UNIVERSITY, LORAS COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE, and Divine Word Seminary. The CAFé Steering Committee was replaced by the CAFé Committee composed of church members and non-church members.

The mission of CAFé grew beyond feeding the hungry. By appointment or in an emergency, a "hygiene pantry" was established to offer personal items needed by the guests. Each month a representative of local organizations visited CAFé to describe the services their organization provided.

Funding for the ministry included some funding from the church with the majority coming from community donations and grants. Plans for the future beyond 2020 included completely remodeling the kitchen of the church.



Cherba, Connie, "CAFé--25 Years Feeding Dubuque's Hungry," Julien's JournalBold text, November 2019, p. 26