I am SO excited to be a part of the core team opening The Soul Platter Cafe. Even though we didn't get "serious" about our "pay what you can" cafe until last fall, many of us have been dreaming about the possibility for several years. It all seemed overwhelming when we thought about location, cost, and need for volunteers. The desire was real, but obstacles seemed to be in the way.
I'm the pastor at First United Presbyterian Church and our church owns the Red Mission House building. I thought it might be nice to share the short history of the the Red Mission House. At one time, the house served as the home for the pastors employed at the church. When I arrived in October 2010, I was single and the large house seemed too big for one person. I also didn't think that living across from the place I work would be good for me. I can tend to be a workaholic and I was afraid I would be working all the time being so close to my work office. Plus, the house was being rented to a family and the idea of being the new pastor in town and kicking out the family so I could live there didn't seem like a very nice thing to do!
In 2013, our rental family moved out of the house and our church was faced with a decision to make about the future of the house. We discussed tearing the house down for more parking, selling it, or renting again. The bones of the house were really good and after several months of prayer and discussion, we decided to remodel the house and use it as a place to help teens. A place where they could hang out in a safe space and be mentored in a variety of ways.
We spent months remodeling the house and are so grateful to the volunteers in our community who gave of their time. We totally gutted the kitchen, laid new flooring in the dining room, painted the entire house, gutted a 1/2 bath and turned a full bath into two bathrooms. Whew! It was a project that took longer than anyone wanted but in the end we had a great 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, with new kitchen and we were able to do it for less than $20,000. We paid all the remodeling expenses through grants, private donations,and lots of sweat equity.
During the year and 1/2 of remodeling, the purpose of the Red Mission House changed, too. What we thought we would do through the house changed as we discerned a new opportunity to serve the community. We recognized that there are several great organizations reaching out and connecting to teens in our area. We want to support their work. Our Red Mission House team started to see the need for help with house repairs and handicap accessibility for individuals and families in Clearfield county. For reasons such as financial and health concerns, some homeowners were unable to maintain their home in a safe manner. We decided to open our house to visiting work teams to stay for a great deal and work on homes in the Dubois area. In 2014, we welcomed four teams and about 50 people in the summer who had traveled from Maryland, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. They were able to help two homeowners in DuBois and landscaped the Red Mission House and began painting the exterior of the house. Local folks helped finish the painting so that the house could have a bright red exterior as a beacon in our community!
The Red Mission House will be welcoming four teams during the summer of 2017 and they will be working on at least two homes in DuBois and one in Falls Creek. In August, we will welcome a missionary family from Spain! The Batista family will live in the house for the school year and help with the house and cafe activities. We'll share more about that in the coming months.
When the details of the Soul Platter cafe started falling into place, we knew a location was a necessity. The Red Mission House seemed like a perfect spot. The home's motto is "A Place to Belong," which embodies the core values of the "pay what you can" cafe. The partnership between the house and cafe is an exciting venture we look forward to taking together.
Finally, to me, the Red Mission House also represents the birth of ideas. Some ideas, like the Red Mission House, evolve in unexpected ways. The Soul Platter Cafe represents an idea that has been brewing for years. We hold onto dreams until they are ready and that can be hard at times. Hard to be patient; hard to remain energetic, but all ideas have validity and the house and cafe echo this.
Thank you for hanging in there and reading my long post!