Knead Cafe Craft and Vendor Fair in New Kensington brings attention to a good cause
A cozy, olive-colored building on Barnes Street in New Kensington was a busy spot on Saturday.
The building is home to the Knead Community Café, a unique place where good meals are served and no one goes hungry no matter how much money they have.
The owners, Kevin and Mary Bode, want to make sure people know they’re there. So the cafe once again hosted the annual Knead Café Fall Harvest Craft and Vendor Fair, where more than 60 vendors brought many people to the site.
“What it’s designed to do is bring the community in so they can experience the cafe and see what we’re doing here,” said event coordinator Marcie Leo.
What they are doing is incredibly heartwarming and inspiring.
When someone comes to eat at the cafe, they are told that there is a donation suggestion. People can pay the suggested amount or add a little more to pay for someone else’s meal.
People can also pay a few dollars, if that’s all they have in their pocket, or they can volunteer for an hour clearing tables or sweeping and receiving a meal.
“We operate on the basis of love,” said Mary Bode. “I think we do a good job of helping people know that they are loved by their community. So we are counting on those who have the means to help those who do not. It is a very concrete way to help your neighbor by injecting a few dollars to reimburse him.
And the food is delicious, based on a random sampling of a plate of homemade eggs, bacon, sausage and fries mixed with hot peppers.
The chef is Carlo Cimino who comes from the Hill Crest Country Club.
About 30% of the Knead Café’s budget comes from fundraising, so proceeds from the craft fair and Saturday vendors help the café manage its finances.
Some vendors donated a significant portion of their income from Saturday’s event to the cafe.
The cafe is now in its fifth year of operation. He was inspired by the missionary trips that Kevin and Mary, who met at Towson University in Maryland, were on overseas.
“After one of those mission trips we came back here and saw the poverty (in New Kensington) and felt we had to do something locally,” said Kevin, who earns a living as a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual. “If you go through these gates and walk past City Hall and keep walking for several blocks, you’ll see some of the highest poverty rates in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
“We felt called to help our neighbors in need in one way or another,” said Mary.
Les Bodes, who do not make money mining coffee, say needs have increased since the start of the pandemic. The cafe was handing out 400 to 500 free meals a month before the covid-19 crisis hit, according to Kevin.
He says the increase in needs has pushed that number to 1,500 per month, making events like Saturday’s even more important.
At the Craft and Vendor Fair, many people showed up to check out everything from jewelry and toys to soap.
Among the buyers was Kathy Westcoat, 73, a retired New Kensington physical education teacher. She stopped by the “Peas and Quiet Farm” booth featuring herbal products including skin care products, hot sauce and whiskey infused hickory syrup.
“They have some interesting things, all of these different herbal products that you don’t find every day,” Westcoat said. “There’s a lot going on here. “
Leo said she believes events like the Saturday Fair are helping to change the public’s perception of New Kensington.
“For the past 20 years, people have been afraid to come to the city,” she said. “Jobs are gone and it’s become a more dangerous place with more crime. But now there are a lot of little stores opening here now, and we want people to know that. It’s a much more positive place.
Mary Bode said she believes the Knead Café has helped bring the New Kensington community together.
“It was a great way to see our community bounce back.”
Paul Guggenheimer is an editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected]