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Café offers food and fellowship
Soul food is on the menu in more than one way at the God's Work Cafe in Bremerton.
Greg and Wanda Ford, owners of the restaurant, said that patrons will certainly be able to dine upon "the best soul food" in town, such as catfish, collard greens and chicken and gizzards. And, if patrons are open to it, there is something to feed their actual souls as well.
The cafe, located at 337 N. Callow, is a restaurant dedicated to serving platters of soul food and outreach to those in need.
The inspiration behind the cafe began in 2000 when Wanda Ford was seeking a means of financing a mission trip to Ecuador with Teen Mission International. She said she had the idea at that time to use food as a means of raising the funds.
She received permission to sell lunches at her job where she was working as a nurse and asked her husband, Greg, a professional cook, to help.
“I said trust God and just make the soup,” she said.
Wanda Ford said she made $50 from the sale, but guided by God, she tithed the money to her church instead of spending it on the mission trip. By June of the same year the couple would sell as many as 100 lunches per day and were able to pay for the mission trip in this way, she said.
It was that experience that began to form the café.
“The Lord began to deal with our hearts and said to feed his sheep,” she said.
In 2008 the couple sought out a place to carry out the directive and the couple found the location on Callow.
“I told The Lord that if he would open the door, we would walk through it,” she said.
An arrangement was made with the landlord of the property, and the two began an almost year-long process of remodeling the store front.
Wanda Ford said she cashed in her retirement of $28,000, but she was once again directed to tithe the amount instead of spending it on the remodel. The Fords signed a three-year lease, but they were not sure how they would finance the café. Not long after signing the lease a stranger knocked upon the door of the restaurant.
“He was a carpenter and he was looking for work,” she said.
She said she told the man that she would be able to feed him but not pay him, but that she was certain he would be blessed for his work. The man agreed.
After that moment, every remodeling need was met by someone. She said those who helped were blessed and that continued to be a part of the heart and soul of the place.
Wanda Ford said that since that time, the doors of the restaurant were open to those in need and part of the mission of the café is to feed those who cannot always afford to eat.
“We have helped addicts out of jail and homeless teenagers, single moms and dads, and many others who were hungry,” she said.
She said it has been encounters such as those that has created an atmosphere beyond mere ambience for the establishment.
Greg Ford said the soul feeding atmosphere called for food along the same lines and the couple decided upon their southern menu. The southern soul food served at the café fills peoples' hunger while the couple seeks to feed their souls.
The fried and the blackened chicken, the red beans and rice and okra, the catfish, collard greens and cornbread, all made from scratch, seemed an obvious choice.
“I’m from Shreveport Louisiana, and the jambalaya and gumbo and all of it is down-home soul food,” he said.
The couple said all of the proceeds from sales go into paying the bills and continuing the ministry of the café.
Kerry Perez, general manager for the café, said much of the work at the café is done by herself and the Fords. Other jobs and task are reformed by those who need a meal, a reference or simple job experience that will help the person get their life on track.
“None of us has seen a paycheck,” Perez said.
Wanda Ford said instead of offering a handout the café offered those in need a chance to earn what is offered without any condescension and those they fed were happy to lend a helping hand. The café will continue to hold prayer meetings and feed the hungry and offer a helping hand with clothing or simple fellowship, she said.
Rodney Schroeder, of the Callow Tattoo Company next door to the café said the Fords are good neighbors and good cooks.
“They are always helping us out if we need little things here and there, and they have really good food, too,” he said.