FORT MILL — They’re not calling it a community cafe for nothing.
The Community Cafe at Lake Wylie Lutheran Church, just outside of Tega Cay, opened this summer to more than 100 guests. A recent Friday lunch brought almost 250. But the guest list isn’t the only growth happening.
A Sonic Drive-In sits less than half a mile from the cafe. That site adopted the cafe as a community support project and will supply drinking cups on an ongoing basis. Cafe volunteers already are picking up 500-cup cases at a time.
“We really like to be involved in the community,” said company spokesperson Amy Houston, “and they’re right across the street.”
A Charlotte company ran a collection drive Thursday for the cafe, while partnerships also have been proposed by Shane’s Rib Shack in Indian Land and the Neighbors Helping Neighbors group in Tega Cay. Nation Ford High School is talking about teaming up with volunteers.
Don Murfin runs the cafe, which began as a weekly free meal at a Lake Wylie church almost three years ago. A second cafe opened at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Fort Mill, which since has been turned over to the church there. When the cafe had to leave its original Lake Wylie home, Lake Wylie Lutheran began housing it.
Now the cafe is planning to reopen a Lake Wylie location, this time at Lake Wylie Christian Assembly, on Jan. 22 while continuing at Lake Wylie Lutheran.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Murfin said.
The cafe is now posting menus and events to Facebook. Word is getting out, leading to the various partnerships. Murfin said something like the Sonic donation might save $25 a month, a significant sum for an organization that doesn’t solicit donations from or charge its guests.
“We can buy a lot of food product for that,” he said.
Murfin is most excited about the lines being crosses with the cafe effort, and not just municipal ones. Grace Presbyterian Church isn’t far from Lake Wylie Lutheran. A team at Grace, close to 25 people, are volunteering to serve lunch one Friday a month.
“Talk about building community,” Murfin said. “This is just roaring.”
Meanwhile, the cafe is keeping its roots strong. Many of the original volunteers in Lake Wylie are part of The Journey at Lake Wylie. The cafe recently began packaging meals for a ministry of that church, and the church has adopted to cafe with support.
“Takes my breath away just to watch what God is doing in our community to build a community that cares,” Murfin said. “It is truly marvelous.”