Community Matters Cafe supports employees, community during pandemic

CHARLOTTE — The Community Matters Cafe has continued to pay employees and help the community during the pandemic.

It’s not an ordinary cafe.

Students who’ve graduated from Charlotte Rescue Mission’s program can be seen behind the counter and in the kitchen.

Several of those students are recovering from homelessness, alcohol and drug addiction.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Charlotte Rescue Mission continued to host programs for people, such as Breayon Prophet.

“Being in this program has really given me a better outlook on life,” Prophet said. “You know, just not giving up. Hope, strength and experience that I can share with other people.”

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The rescue mission received money from Foundation for the Carolinas and United Way’s COVID-19 Response Fund to buy cleaning supplies, masks and disposable menus to support its cafe and workers.

It also secured PPP loan, which makes sure many of their employees and students still received a paycheck.

“It showed solidarity they had with us and the community,” chef Kyle Johnson said. They wanted to make sure we could stand on our feet in a time that was rough for everybody.”

Restaurant manager Jenna Villapando said they started a campaign called Meals That Matter. The money donated to the campaign was matched by other donors. It helped support the restaurant and provided thousands of meals to people in our community.

"I think a lot of people in Charlotte see what we do, and they wanted to make sure we stay open," Villapando said.

“Early on, I know Elevation Church and a couple of other programs funded for us to create some meals out to different men’s shelters and different outreach programs,” Johnson said.

Villapando said the opportunities they've continued to provide during the pandemic have helped many move on to the real world.

“We had a man that left in the last group who is working at Ruth’s Chris. We have a young lady that left in the second to last group working at Lowe’s,” Villapando said.