Travis Park United Methodist Church
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Unconditional Love and Justice in Action
Cafe Corazon Memories
Café Corazon Memories
Heather Mace-Meador, TPUMC Council Chair
My favorite memories of Café Corazon show how hopeful, compassionate, generous, excited (and naïve) we all were when we were just getting started. I remember that we really wanted to find a way to do something different – make the experience more like a meal and less like a soup kitchen. We selected the name – Café Corazon – because we wanted to serve from the heart. I had forgotten about the centerpieces that we used until I read Becky’s memories (they really were cute – we used wooden hearts to make a bouquet of flowers that were placed in flowerpots on each table) but it reminded me how we wanted the guests to feel welcome and feel like they were sitting down for a meal with friends.
So, we had a name and we had plans to create a welcoming atmosphere with tables and centerpieces. Next on the list was to decide on our menu and here’s where our youthful enthusiasm was evident. We wanted to offer a menu and we planned to go to each table to take the guests’ orders and then bring their food to the table. Now, we did attempt to be realistic about our menu plans and thought we would offer maybe 3 or 4 options. But as you can imagine, as we got closer to our “grand opening”, we had to reconcile the number of volunteers, the amount of time we had to get ready and the food options available and ultimately, we had to acknowledge that we might need to consider a simpler menu.
However, any disappointment in not realizing our goal of creating a unique “restaurant experience” for our guests was quickly forgotten as we had the opportunity to interact with our guests on a personal level. We started with one team that worked every Sunday which gave us the opportunity to see the same guests week after week. There were several guys that I chatted with each week and I was worried about them if they missed a week. I even had one guest who helped me practice my Spanish after church.
To me, that really is the core of Café Corazon. People caring for one another by serving a meal, sharing a meal; being together with each other and for each other. I look forward to seeing us return to those roots and keep growing together.
ID Recovery Program
With the opening of Haven for Hope, the services provided by our ID Recovery Program will be provided there, along with a wide array of other social services. With the help of our experienced volunteers who will help with training at Haven for Hope, this ministry will continue to help address one of the root causes of homelessness.
The ID Recovery Program was conceived in the summer of 2003 when two physician assistant students, Sidney Warner, (a long-time Travis Park UMC member) and Rodney Haltom, a fellow student, were required to complete a community medicine project. They both wanted to work with the homeless population, and, after visiting many agencies around the city, they found there were minimal services for identification recovery in the city. They discovered that a huge Catch-22 existed: people had to have identification to get a job, or housing, but they could not get ID without identification. Sydney and Rodney decided to develop a program to address this need and an amazing group of Travis Park volunteers with skills particularly suited to the task sprang up around them to help.
Every Tuesday morning people lined up for help getting birth certificates, social security cards, and Texas identification cards. For the volunteers, it was like a giant jigsaw puzzle to find the missing pieces each person needed. They have persevered as, over the years, the requirements for obtaining birth certificates, school records, and personal IDs have gotten more difficult due to more stringent requirements.
Original funding to cover the necessary fees and materials came as a $400 gift from a member of the congregation. Additional funding came as a grant from the American Academy of Physician Assistants as well as other sources, including from the ID recovery volunteers.
Hundreds of people have been helped. The ID program was chosen as the program for ID recovery for the Katrina survivors in San Antonio. Many people have been able to get jobs and find housing. Having an ID helps each individual get back a little bit of self respect. Travis Park volunteers have spent countless hours and have put their hearts into the program through the years. Our gratitude goes to Dan and Judy Adams, Shawn Campbell and Fred York, who has given pro-bono legal help, and all of the others who have lent a hand. Like many aspects of Corazon Ministries, the ID Recovery Program shows what a few people with an idea, a lot of dedicated work, and the power of the Holy Spirit can do to help those around them.
Café Corazon Beginnings
by Becky Snodgrass
The beginning of Café seems like it was so long ago, but then it seems like it was yesterday. This is what I remember of what was the forming of Café Corazon.
In early February 1999 some folks gathered for dinner at (former pastors) John and Karen’s house to discuss an idea that Mike Cline had. The way I remember it, and the way I tell the story, is what Mike shared with us that evening. He explained that he had been walking in Austin with his mom when a homeless man approached them and asked for money. Apparently, Mike’s mother gave the guy some money and Mike expressed his concern about it. What I recall from Mike’s story to us was that his mom had told him that her brother was also out on the streets somewhere, and she prayed that someone would do the same for him. This story stayed with Mike for a year or so before he moved to San Antonio.
The group began the “what if’s” – what if we just try serving food every Sunday for a month? We decided we would attempt to serve breakfast every Sunday for six months. I remember thinking to myself: there is no way we can do this. Luckily, I followed my peers on this one.
We had several planning meetings to figure out the details and to discuss the menu. Our biggest concern in doing this was that the café NOT be like a “soup kitchen.” We decided that we would call our visitors “guests” because this is how we wanted them to feel. Heather Mace-Meador made the cutest center pieces for the tables that we used each week.
Our first Sunday of serving was on Palm Sunday, 1999.
I have told this story before and I will tell it again. I missed the first Sunday of Café being served because my mother had just died and I was not in town. After having gone through such a traumatic time in my life, the last place I wanted to be on the following Sunday, Easter Sunday, was serving breakfast to the homeless. I carried so much grief during that time, but my church family gave me much encouragement so I was where I needed to be that Sunday.
We probably had 150 people that second Sunday and I remember looking around seeing the many faces and thinking wow. While I was pouring syrup, I just began to cry. A man approached me and asked what was wrong and I told him I was sad because my mom just died. The man I never met put his hand on my shoulder and simply said he was sorry. I will never forget the change that happened to me personally that day. What I realized was that every one of us experiences pain, and we are all in this together. Looking out and seeing the diverse faces of the crowd, I remember feeling that this is what God is calling us all to do.
For months, the same group of people did the shopping, serving and cleaning up each Sunday and the people “upstairs” seemed to be curious about what was going on. We began asking Sunday school classes to volunteer to be in charge one Sunday a month. It took off from there. People brought their friends, co-workers, kids, and it all got done, every week for the past 11 years.
Another thing I remembered recently while listening to Mike Cline speak in worship was that Grace was just a baby when we started this. Every Sunday, Mike and Amy had her in a carrier on their back while they worked in the kitchen. Grace has really been with it her whole life!
Other things also come to mind, such as our budget. We really did not have one, but we knew we had to do it cheap. We were able to keep our costs down to about 40 cents a plate and still provide a healthy meal. We went to day-old bakeries and bought bread, got supplies at Sam’s and scrubbed pans. Larry Fay found fruit through a friend and donated plenty every Sunday. After a few months, we were told that an “anonymous donor” told us not to worry about the money because it was funded for the rest of the year. Dr. Richard Ferguson sat up a table and began seeing folks for their medical issues. Homeless guests began to play the piano, or sing.
The final thing I can say is that we must listen to our experiences and, more importantly, share them with the people around us. Had Mike not ever discussed his experience in Austin that day, this whole thing might never have begun. Many people have come along and have shared their own gifts and talents. Travis Park has to continue to be the safe place for people to share and dream and put our dreams in motion.
As we celebrate the opening of Haven for Hope, Travis Park Church is returning to the roots of the outreach ministry begun 11 years ago: Café Corazon on Sunday mornings and Prayer Picnic, Communion/Healing Service, and Recovery Circle on Wednesday evenings. Contact Dale Tremper at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can volunteer.
230 E. Travis Street, San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 226-8341 www.travispark.org