FORT MILL — One state group so wanted to recognize The Community Cafe for its efforts, they created an award to present.
“We actually had to make a new award for what’s going on here, and for Chef Don,” said Teresa Arnold, state director for AARP.
Don Murfin – who has been cooking up Cafe meals since the first location opened in Lake Wylie in January 2010 – is the first recipient of the Roger Jermyn Community Service Award. It’s named for a late Rock Hill resident who was the winner of the state’s highest volunteer service award presented by AARP.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to name the award for, nor a better person to receive the award,” Arnold said.
South Carolina ranks among the highest states in the nation for hunger among seniors, leaders said in making the presentation Friday at the Fort Mill location at Lake Wylie Lutheran Church.
The Community Cafe has two locations open for free lunch once a week with the other at Lake Wylie Christian Assembly in Lake Wylie serving lunch on Tuesdays.
Liz Norris, AARP state president, joined Arnold – as well as 100 guests – for the recognition Friday and she included a $500 donation. Kenny Ashley, one of two pastors to help launch the cafes said the idea was only partly food. The rest was putting people next to one another to create community.
“This is what it’s supposed to be about,” Ashley said Friday.
Murfin said 70-75 percent of the funding for the cafe comes from donations in the large soup pots at the welcoming table. Corporate help from groups like Jason’s Deli and U.S. Foods also have been instrumental, along with the 20-plus volunteers who make each serving happen.
In addition to the two Cafes, volunteers may make 100 or so meals for special events, such as a recent spaghetti supper in Gastonia, N.C., for the homeless. Area nonprofits often receive deliveries. Groups, including senior groups, often attend in bunches.
Heading into the meal service Friday, total meals served by the Cafes were within 300 helpings of 70,000.
“We’ll be closer,” Murfin said mid-meal Friday.
Part of a civic group that tracks service hours, Murfin said he routinely puts in full-time hours for cafe work from ordering food to finding people to prepare it. But he’s most please with the ministry he and volunteers have put together the past several years.
“It’s kind of a full-time job,” Murfin said. “I’ve never enjoyed a paying job as much as I’ve enjoyed this. It’s just a thrill every week.”