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Cafe founder's vision: healthy food for everyone
Members of the Common Ground Cafe team pause for a photo at the June pop-up event at Holly Oak Park in Shelby.

What if you could get a delicious, healthy meal in Shelby, and instead of paying for your meal, you donated time to help make a meal for someone else? That's the idea behind Common Ground Cafe, the brain- child of Shelby resident Nancy Hillman.
"Common Ground Cafe is a non-profit pay-what-you-can restaurant that will operate within the city limits of Shelby. Our location and hours will be determined once we find a place to call our home," says Hillman. "Our desire is to alleviate hunger and promote health by offering nourishing, high quality, local food on a pay-what-you-can basis."
About four years ago, Hillman read an online article about a community cafe in Colorado.
"I thought it would be great for Cleveland County but I didn't know where to begin so I didn't pursue it," she says. "Then two years later during my graduate studies with East Tennessee State University I found out they had a community cafe on their campus called One Acre Cafe. Their website provided the guidance that I needed to find out more information."
Last year Hillman and her husband attended the annual community cafe summit held by One World Everybody Eats (OWEE), and since then it has been her goal to establish a community cafe in Shelby.
Every cafe in the OWEE network is dedicated to the following principles:
Pay-what-you-can pricing
Patrons choose their own portion size
Healthy, seasonal food is served whenever available
Patrons may volunteer in exchange for a meal
Volunteers are used to the maximum extent possible to staff the organization
Paid staff earn a living wage
A community table is offered
Currently, there are more than 50 community cafes operating in the United States.
"Common Ground Cafe will be open to everyone," says Hillman. "Our desire is to build community relations between all of our guests by providing a space that allows everyone, regardless of means, access to healthy food. Our food will be nourishing, sustainable and prepared using local ingredients as much as possible. Supporting local businesses is an important component of our concept. Also, we value people and our community over profit. Our philosophy is that everyone, regardless of status, deserves the chance to eat nourishing food while being treated with dignity and respect."
It is hoped that the free-standing cafe will be a reality in a few years, but in the meantime Hillman and her board of directors are busy securing funding while hosting pop-up events and "friend-raiser" events. One such event is scheduled Thursday, July 19, 2018, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Spinning Leaf, 1414 Metcalf Road, Shelby. A $10 donation at the door will allow attendees to enjoy heavy hors d'oevres. A cash bar will also be available.
For more information, search for "Common Ground Cafe" on Facebook or call (704) 981-0991.

By April Hoyle Shauf

Special to Community First Media

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