Knead Café feeding bodies and souls in New Kensington
By Maria Guzzo
The Knead Community Café in New Kensington is celebrating its fifth year of providing meals to people from all walks of life, regardless of their ability to pay.
“We want to acknowledge all the community support we’ve gotten. We are humbled and grateful that God has blessed us, and we’re planning to continue our mission,” said Kevin Bode, who founded the nonprofit with his wife, Mary. They are parishioners of Mount St. Peter Parish,
After years of mission work in other countries, the Bodes realized they also wanted to help people in their community.
“Mission trip work is great, and we still do that, but we felt we really need to help our neighbors in New Kensington,” Kevin said. “It was a calling, truly a calling.”
Local leaders, area residents and café volunteers are celebrating Knead’s positive presence amid the community’s newly surging revitalization.
Recent retiree Kim Carlisle began volunteering at Knead in October 2020.
“I just love it here,” Carlisle said. “So many people think it’s for less fortunate people, but it’s a restaurant for everyone.
Dennis Scarpiniti, New Kensington city clerk, said Knead is part of the town’s fabric.
“The Knead Café has done a tremendous job of reaching those in our community who need a dignified hand up,” Scarpiniti said. “Through their efforts they have made a positive impact on the city as an inviting place for all community residents to gather.”
Donna Rosen Tassos, a nurse and a Mount St. Peter parishioner, praised the café’s positive impact on the city.
“In addition to serving healthy and delicious food, it contributes to the health and well-being of the local population,” she said. “The friendly, caring atmosphere of the café generates and supports positive social connections, which are vital to mental health. Meeting basic needs results in a better quality of life in many dimensions, including work, school and family.”
Besides its regular lunch offerings, Knead serves free weekly grab-and-go meals to anyone in the community, holds winter clothing giveaways, hosts blood drives, and partners with local health care providers to offer services such as blood pressure screenings, flu shots and COVID vaccines.
The Bodes say developing relationships is key to helping those in need with issues such as lack of employment or housing, by connecting them to social service organizations.
“When (guests) volunteer for a meal, it allows us to get to know them better,” Kevin said.
The Bodes said a number of volunteers, aided by their service at Knead, have been able to move forward with their lives. They gain both confidence and work experience, enabling them to land paying jobs elsewhere.
The Bodes said they want to continue with God’s work, but for a time during the pandemic they wondered how.
“We didn’t know how we were going to afford it, how we could keep our doors open, and we really trusted in our faith that God would provide,” Mary said. “God provides for works in his name; we are testimony to that.”