Monday afternoon Senator Jason Rapert, along with the Conway Community Service Award board, recognized the Harvey family and the work they do with the Soul Food Cafe Mission.
The mission of the CCSA is to recognize the good that the people of Conway do. “Too often in our busy lives we overlook the things that really make our community shine, with CCSA we want to fix that,” the board says.
“There’s no way you can’t be touched when you come here,” Rapert said.
Soul Food Cafe is a faith based mission that strives to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the community through free, hot meals, food boxes, clothing and a presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from area ministers, pastors and priests.
Rapert presented the Harvey family with a Senate Citation on behalf of the Arkansas Senate for providing the community in need with a box of food and a hot meal each Monday afternoon in the old location of Second Baptist Church in downtown Conway.
The mission originated 12 years ago, and has continued to serve the community despite two devastating fires.
The first fire occurred in 2006 and another in 2011. Both times the mission was forced to relocate, but came back stronger each time, finding its current location in Second Baptist Church on Harkrider Street.
“If it’s God’s and he owns it, he will take care of it,” said co-founder Traci Harvey. “We’ve never tried to claim the mission as our own. This doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to God.”
The mission first began with a free-meal ministry at Brother T’s restaurant and has grown to include a food box program, feeding hundreds of families each week.
Rick Harvey oversees total operations, keeping finances in order, sorting food, maintaining trucks and vans and coordinating ministers to preach each Monday with the help of wife Traci and their seven children.
“Rick, I know that it’s all the family with you on this, and the community supports you and what we do here pales in comparison to the lives you touch and the souls that have been saved here at this cafe,” Rapert said.
In addition to the Harveys, about 40 to 60 volunteers work to feed the community each week.
“We’ve never scheduled them,” Traci said. “They just start showing up.”
When Second Baptist Church officially moves to their new location in March, the 91-year old downtown church will be repurposed into an evangelical ministry center that will provide counseling, case management and job placement services.
During this conversion, the Soul Food Cafe will be given more storage space for food palates, a walk-in freezer and four Sunday School rooms to sort and store men’s, women’s and children’s clothing.
The Harveys are also going to try to expand to do another day, Rick says.
Another expansion project that has been in the works for several years, is a central location for continued food box distribution, meals, toiletry items and clothes with the hope to eventually include brief stays for the homeless, a Bible study room, laundry mat and a small furniture and appliance showroom.
The electricity is in and we’re working on the sewer and water, Traci said.
“There could possibly be a plan for two locations,” she said. “We’ll move when God says. We’re completely obedient to God.”
The central Soul Food Cafe Mission will be located at 1717 South Donaghey Ave. and the Harveys are anticipating the clothes section of the downtown location to be up and running by May.