We have spent our summer connecting and continuing with the tasks necessary to open a restaurant on practically ZERO budget. Thank God for volunteers!
We held two volunteer meetings this summer and were able to add some key people to our group to help delegate and manage our growing to-do list: taking inventory of the kitchen, talking with the PA Department of Health, building connections with farms and Farm to Table efforts, growing our own food, connecting with leaders from One World Everybody Eats, planning our next fundraiser and soup/salad sales, planning a rummage sale, purchasing and installing a commercial freezer, installing shelving systems for the pantry, pricing out a commercial grade sink, finding a free cash register, developing our recipes, trying to get a handle on social media, and more. We were blessed to have a work group of freshmen from Penn State DuBois choose The Soul Platter Café as one of their benefactors for Outreach Day. Each year, as part of New Student Orientation, new students volunteer at various charitable and community oriented organizations in the area, giving students a look at the importance of service, while lending a hand to local charities.
But by far our most noticeable project was the installation of an accessibility ramp at our property's frontage on West Scribner Avenue. This project was undertaken by volunteers from Lowe's Heroes, a program of Lowe's Home Improvement Center of DuBois under foreman Greg Preston, as well as local contractor Mark Britton and Darryl Beatty Excavating, and their crews. This volunteer work saved The Soul Platter Café an estimated $8,000 in providing the ramp required in order to open for business. The project will be complete once the railing is installed by the end of October. Funds from TSPC as well as the Red Mission House were tapped for the railing materials and labor.
It is one thing to write about these details, and to offer our thanks to these volunteers, but we have to stand back and take it all in and just say WOW. The fact that this property needed a ramp was at one point nearly insurmountable as a zoning requirement due to the cost. What a hurdle like that does to excited volunteers -- well, it can discourage and deflate us. That's where we were with the café last spring. Is this really going to happen? If so, where? Really, an $8000 ramp? So as we were rounding out a few successful soup sale fundraisers and getting the word out about the mission of TSPC, we were using social media, specifically Facebook, to share. Excitement was building, shown in inquiries, sales, offers to help, and in small yet generous donations coming in. But when we posted that we couldn't open until we installed a ramp, I never guessed that within 24 hours, a solution would present itself -- and that was the Lowe's Heroes group. And they delivered!
You know what they say about "God things"? Well, THAT was a God thing. I love when that happens.
While there is so much to-do and focus about the property, we also crossed a few items off our logistics list. From the triumvirate (Sarah, Stef and myself) we are settling into our skillsets and plugging away. Stefanie earned her ServSafe Manager certification (Way to go Stef!) Stef also keeps Sarah and I calm when our eyes bug out on hearing all of the restaurant requirements. Stef's garden behind at the Café is just about ready for harvesting, and the subject of a future blog. Sarah does many things, but literally holds down the fort at The Red Mission House and facilitates the volunteer projects there at the property. I continue my garden and farm connections with a summer visit to a local goat farm, Cherish Creamery, watering the Community Garden (although it hasn't needed too much) and now kicking off of a beef raffle featuring all-natural and local Dixon Century Farm beef, which is my father's hobby farm in Sabula, 6 miles away. We are also getting ready to begin our soup sales again soon, and will be hosting a volunteer thank-you dinner for our property volunteers.
The big next and perhaps final step is getting the kitchen up to code. More on that later.
I know we keep getting inquiries: I want to help! That's awesome! Here are a few things we need: help in selling raffle tickets, help in making and selling soup for the fall fundraisers, help with a rummage and bake sale in November, help with preserving the garden harvest. Do any of these fit on your to-do list? Help us get them to-done! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org