Couple’s effort grows New Kensington’s sense of community
Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things that they do.
New Kensington couple Kevin and Mary Bode have traveled the world on Christian mission trips, and discovered one of the best ways to help people is to fulfill a need at home.
“We’ve always been involved with nonprofits in the area,” Mary Bode said. “It’s great that we go overseas, but our community could use a little bit of help.”
They began searching for ideas and decided on providing food with uncommon payment options.
Customers could pay a suggested donation, pay more to assist those who may not be able to afford a meal, pay what they could or volunteer at the shop.
They founded the Knead Community Cafe in February 2017.
The nearly 30,000-square-foot facility at 1011 Barnes St. was the former home of a Sons of Italy lodge and Circle Theater. Their old marquee letters were used to make the phrase “All We Knead is Love.”
Some of the cafe is made from re-purposed pallets, wooden sheds and donated materials.
The cafe serves about 75 meals a day on average, and 200 to 350 people at its community dinners the third Thursday of the month.
An average meal costs about $8, for a large sandwich with fresh chicken or sausage, lettuce and tomato, for example, plus soup. Tacos and pulled pork as well as burgers, entree salads and specialty dishes and seasonal items also are on the menu.
Mary Bode said her family would express love through food and found a lot of government-funded food can be highly processed and carb-laden.
“We didn’t think money should be a barrier to eating well and healthier,” Mary Bode said. “This gives the community the opportunity to decide (how they can support others). We’ve learned so much about our neighbors and just good people in the greater area.”
Several organizations also contribute to the cafe. There are planter beds outside with fresh herbs and vegetables.
Most workers at the cafe are volunteers. There is a paid chef and manager.
The cafe has a banquet hall and conference room available for rent. It also hosts craft and vendor fairs and concerts in the courtyard.
Proceeds go back into the shop for food and expenses.
The couple said they’ve seen a difference in New Kensington since the cafe opened.
“It’s gone better than we ever expected,” Kevin Bode said. “It’s become a lot more than just feeding people. It’s become a community hub. We’ve helped people with jobs, helped with housing (through networking) … A lot of people see the collaboration that’s going on, and it’s really helping out quite a bit. I think there’s a lot more businesses coming to town. People are investing in the community again.”
The Bodes have been married for 32 years. They met while studying at Towson University in Maryland.
Mary graduated in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy. Kevin graduated in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science. Both still work in their respective fields.
Kevin Bode, a financial adviser for Northwestern Mutual and former New Kensington YMCA board member, set up his office above the cafe so he could be more involved.
The Bodes lived in Arnold and raised their two children in Allegheny Township before settling in New Kensington.
They’re also active at Mt. St. Peter Parish in the city.
More information about the cafe is available at knead communitycafe.org or by calling 878-847-7997.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .