An old restaurant adjacent to Covenant Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, became an opportunity for the church to begin a new ministry of hospitality.
Aided by a grant from Diaconal Ministries Canada, the congregation eagerly donated time and money, transforming the building into Lockside Cove Café, with a vision for being “a ministry of presence, a ministry of hospitality, and a ministry of hope,” explains Tammy Vahrmeyer.
Vahrmeyer, the café’s only paid staff member, says the work appealed to her because of her business background, but also because, in her words, “as a new Christian myself, I appreciated this nonthreatening style of doing church outreach.”
Clockwise from left: Mark Bereczky, Ron Kozela, Rick Hoogendam, and Will Vahrmeyer install the sign for the Lockside Cove Café.
More than 40 volunteers from the church and neighborhood run the café. One volunteer from the neighborhood now attends Coffee Break at the church. “These are the kinds of seeds we want to see planted,” said Vahrmeyer.
Menu items such as hot and cold beverages, soups, sandwiches, and pastries are available for a suggested donation, but if someone can’t pay, that’s OK. Thanks to some generous patrons and a second offering collected by the church on Sundays, the costs of the café are always covered.
Regarding the success of the ministry, Vahrmeyer stated, “Most people think in terms of profits when operating a restaurant. I like to think our success is measured by the people who come in and if it is indeed an outreach to them. We have many wonderful stories of how the volunteers have been awesome at just being a listening ear or a friendly face after a long day. We have a guest book that has been filled already where our patrons attest to the fact that this little café has been a great little haven for the community.”