During the Community Cafe’s 10th anniversary and student recognition Saturday evening, founder and former Executive Director Kristen Allcorn Killen was more than pleased to see the cafe growing and still helping others a decade later.
Killen, now a family medicine resident at the University of Missouri-Columbia, began the cafe program while a Smith-Cotton High School National Honor Society student because she saw a need in the community. She never thought it would grow into such a student-led program, which still helps feed people.
“Initially it was a dream really,” she said before the program began Saturday. “I knew there was a need, and it’s been great to see what it’s become and how students are still leaders. How so many community members have come around it, it’s pretty incredible.”
“I think this is awesome,” Linda Allcorn, Killen’s mother, added. “It’s a great need that I think the community has had, and to see how a young person can come up with a concept and then the community get behind it. Then continue 10 years later with different leaders through all these years.
“The students have been amazing, taking the leadership role,” Allcorn added. “Then all of the groups and organizations that prepare the food and serve it every day, It still goes back to the whole name the Community Cafe. It’s all for the community. You know the people, who have a need, they basically have a very nice meal that otherwise they might not be able to have.
“I just think its awesome that the students have a heart for it,” she noted. “To see the people still coming, the need is still great, which is sad. But, there are services that can help.”
Killen added that she always had a heart for helping others.
“When I was in high school, I went with my church, First Baptist, and our youth group would go and serve at a homeless shelter kitchen in Kansas City,” she said. “I just loved that idea of meeting a tangible need with people, and sitting down and getting to know them, and being a part of their lives. Then I came back here, and there wasn’t anything like that …”
Killen began to talk to people in the public services sector to see what she could do to help create a kitchen for the less fortunate.
“One person said ‘well a lot of people have thought about it or tried it, but it never worked, so what makes you think you can do it?’” Killen said. “So, that kind of lit a fire in me too, through all those kinds of conversations with those who saw there was a need, but no one was able to meet it, so I took that on as a challenge.”
“It has just been a God-thing, to see how God has opened doors, bringing everything together with perfect timing,” her mother added.
During the dinner and recognition, both Killen and her mother were presented bouquets by Community Cafe Executive Director Aly Shaw, a senior at SCHS, and Assistant Director Kali Hedderich, also a SCHS student. Other former directors and student leaders were also asked to stand and be recognized.
Community Cafe Board President Leisa Gero echoed Killen’s thoughts on the cafe. Gero addressed the group and said she worked with some “amazing people” at the cafe.
“You students have kept this going for 10 years and that’s quite an accomplishment,” Gero noted.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.