Donors step up to meet shelter’s need

The Gainesville community stepped up in a big way after GRACE Marketplace sent out an August call for help as its Cafe 131 kitchen prepared to close from Sept. 7 to 20 for repairs to the floor.

“Meals that people get from Cafe 131 are oftentimes their only resource for a meal, so obviously it’s super, super important that we continue serving meals while this necessary closure takes place,” John Thomas, director of advancement for GRACE, said in a phone interview.

The non-profit asked the community to raise $7,500 in order to cater dinner during the closure. Thomas said that within the week almost 50 people donated and surpassed the goal, raising more than $7,700.

“In my time as the director of advancement here at GRACE, this is probably one of our most successful campaigns,” Thomas said. “The Gainesville community and the Alachua County community are super generous, and typically when we put out a call for help, they answer the call immediately.”

He said the floors would be resurfaced, requiring all the kitchen appliances and tools to be removed, but kitchen staff will still be able to provide breakfast and lunch from another building on campus. The dinner slot is what needed the help.

The response comes after GRACE worked with community stakeholders on another successful project: clearing Dignity Village, a 25-acre homeless encampment next to the GRACE campus.

Cafe 131 opened in 2015 in partnership with the City of Gainesville, which is supporting the floor repair. The kitchen serves between 250 and 300 meals a day.

Since January, GRACE Marketplace has served 84,226 meals and housed 288 people.

Thomas said future changes will be coming to the GRACE Marketplace campus over the fall, including the reopening of its Club 131 that has been closed because of the pandemic.

People who sign up for the club can donate once or regularly or visit the campus to volunteer in person.

“That’s one of our most recognizable volunteer programs that has been shut down since last year, so we’re excited to be able to bring that back,” Thomas said, adding that the program restart is dependent on the COVID-19 situation.

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