LAKE WYLIE — If there’s such a thing as homecoming at a place they’ve never been, Tuesday was it for The Community Cafe.
The free meal cafe opened at Lake Wylie Christian Assembly, where it will operate from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays.
The cafe began as a Lake Wylie ministry and ran at River Hills Community Church for more than two years. Two cafes have been opened in Fort Mill – one being turned over to the church that started it and the other still a Cafe site – at Lake Wylie Lutheran Church.
Billy Ginn, associate pastor for Lake Wylie Christian Assembly, was one of several excited diners at Tuesday’s opening.
“They’ve done an amazing job,” he said. “All these volunteers are doing an amazing job.”
Don Murfin has been the head chef for at least one Cafe site since its 2010 launch. Homecoming, he said, is a fitting word for the return to Lake Wylie.
“To a lot of people, it is,” he said. “We’ve got lots of volunteers from the church here. We’ve got a lot of volunteers from back when we were at River Hills. We’ve got volunteers from Lake Wylie Lutheran Church. We’ve just got people from all over.”
Sharon and Dick McConnell passed out name tags and greeted guests at the welcoming table.
Betsy Stefanik showed diners to the kitchen on her first day volunteering. She’s a member of The Journey at Lake Wylie, led by pastor Kenny Ashley.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s a real outreach for the community. In this day and time, we need it.”
Several guests were waiting when the doors opened. Calls were coming from businesses to pick up meals.
Given a strong showing each Friday at Lake Wylie Lutheran, volunteers are expecting to be busy on Tuesdays in Lake Wylie.
“Fort Mill really has the numbers, and I’m sure we’ll have the numbers, too, because a lot of people leave here to go there,” Stefanik said.
Ashley was a driving force, along with Murfin and others, behind the original cafe. His congregation continues to support the free meal ministry, where guests may offer a donation. The original idea was just food and fellowship.
In line as the doors opened Tuesday, Ashley shook his head to see how far that idea has come.
“Just make a pot of soup and give it to people,” Ashley said. “It’s come a long way.”