Who comes to eat these days?

The guest list for the Dragon Café includes anyone who is hungry. In the past the Dragon Café was mostly a ministry of food and fellowship serving disaster relief workers and volunteers. Presently the Café serves a population that primarily suffers from mental illness and substance abuse as well as the homeless and the working poor. On average we serve about 90 meals between 8:30 and 9:30 am every Sunday morning.

Why Breakfast?

More than a year ago we decided to shift from serving dinner two nights a week to serving breakfast once per week. The decision was primarily economic but the benefits from this change have been legion: We are now serving a much higher “at risk” population (many of whom by late afternoon are seeking shelter for the night or are otherwise occupied); breakfast provides our guests incentive to get up, get to the church and consume a hot meal rather than less healthy alternatives; the weekend hours have made it easier for St. George’s parishioners to participate - our volunteer corps has grown to nearly 1/3 of our regular church membership. 


How is the Cafe funded?

 The Dragon Café is completely funded by private donations like yours. Grants are rare. Besides oversight from the rector, the Dragon Café is 100% volunteer – there are no paid staff members. Many of our consumables are provided by food and supply drives at area churches and schools. 

What impact does the Café have on the neighborhood & identity of St. George’s as the body of Christ?

 In the six years that the Café has been in operation, St. George’s, located in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, has never received a complaint from neighborhood residents. Rather, St. George’s is known as the church that feeds people on Sunday mornings, many of whom begin to line up outside the church by 7:30 am every Sunday.

As the vision of St. George’s ministry continues to grow, the Dragon Café has helped the mission statement of the church evolve from a relatively abstract statement describing St. George’s as an “Eucharistically centered community” to this very simple hope: “At. St. George’s, no one leaves hungry.” As we celebrate the early service of Holy Communion in the church upstairs at 8am, we don’t smell incense but rather the aroma of sausage cooking in the kitchen below. Not many, but some, of our guests also attend church services and the Sunday bible study in the chapel at 9:30am. 

In January of 2010 the church received this hand written note:

“Dear Good People: Here is a small contribution towards the Dragon Café. I have just brought my son to Asheville and he’s told me about having meals at your church. Your program has probably saved his life. I am deeply, beyond words, grateful.” 

 The Dragon Café has become, as one Vestry member recently said, “A major part of who St. George’s is.” 

How can I support the work of the Dragon Café? 

The goal of the Dragon Café is to expand from serving breakfast one morning per week to offering breakfast and a “carry out” lunch as many days of the week as possible. At St. George’s, with a mission statement that compels us to serve a hungry world, we are inspired by the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples as they wondered aloud to him about how he would feed the multitudes : “You give them something to eat.”  You can support the work of The Dragon Café by donating online and supporting the Dragon Café financially, by soliciting from within your own circle of resources across the Diocese to procure high quality objects of art, services and gift certificates for our auction tables in June, or by volunteering to cook, clean or serve at the Dragon Café.

To volunteer to work at the Café contact Kelly Eldridge

For financial inquiries about the Dragon Café Feeding Ministry contact Kelly Eldridge

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION TO SUPPORT THE MINISTRY TO THE DRAGON CAFE


HOw it all started

By: Tom Forbes

Believe it or not, it has been five years since we started feeding the hungry in the "frontier days" after Katrina. Who'd have thought then that we'd still be carrying on today? But with God's help and the effort of many who donated and volunteered, we are still "serving".

We started when the Diocese recognized that our mostly undamaged churches uptown could be of immediate service to the community, as well as to our own parishioners. Many of us had no kitchens, and some had no houses at all. While Trinity took on a counseling ministry, and Cathedral a clothing exchange, St. George's (with a long history of feeding the hungry out of our kitchen and parish hall) took on feeding whoever came in, starting on Friday evenings beginning early in December 2005. This was back when the city had little permanent population (or restaurants or groceries), many "commuters", refugees/exiles, and a hot dinner was hard to come by (lunches for many of us came off a Red Cross truck back then). With help from the Diocese, and with a lot of work from Father Christopher and Deacon Lydia, we got started. Where to get food and donations? Providence was with us, we got several freezers of food from the laid-up riverboat MISSISSIPPI QUEEN (smoked salmon for disaster victims!!--a good start) and opened our undercroft doors to whoever came in. Many were shell-shocked returnees who had gotten a look at their houses and neighborhoods before heading back upriver in the evening, and many were our own church members and friends.

In due course we started serving on Thursday nights as well, and after a while we even had live music, too (as the budget would permit, or musicians-in-residence would often improvise). We started with perhaps 40-50 diners a night, which quickly grew to 70-80, and later on to over 100. It was a place not of just good hot food (and it *was* good, as your writer will attest), but of real fellowship, commiseration, gratitude, and faith. It was also a chance for many of us to volunteer and help the city, as so many people and institutions had been helping us, and would continue to do so. Speaking of help, we had selfless and loving help, both in people, time, and money, from what became our "partner parishes", Episcopal churches from around the country who came down early, and stuck with us through thick and thin.

Over the years our menu and serving nights changed (to Wednesdays and Thursdays), but the ministry carried on, with grant money from the Diocese being a big help. But eventually the relief grants had to come to an end, and we faced the prospect of either closing down, or keep going, with help form our partner parishes, from donations and fundraisers, and with our "faith-based budget" (pray, and believe, and we'll make it somehow). This change happened just about the time Father Jim joined us, and it was a leap of faith indeed, but one which, with God's help, has worked out. About a year ago, we recognized that with funding limited, we could feed more (and even needier) people with breakfast than with dinner. So now, the Dragon Cafe serves a hot breakfast every Sunday, after our geneous parish partners from St. Marks in Barrington, IL helped us launch the program.

How many meals have we served? Stan Jahncke, our loyal manager, would know better, but if we averaged somewhere about 70-80 grateful souls twice a week (mostly) for five years, a conservative estimate might be around 35,000 meals. Is it possible to wear out a kitchen?? And there have been some inspirational stories along the way. We also were honored to serve a whole lot of volunteers from all around the country (thank God for them all), who heard about the meals when they came down to help gut houses and help the city recover instead of going on vacation somewhere else.

I have not tried to name more of the people who have made this a true ministry, for fear of leaving some names out, but they are many, and the Cafe has been a life-changer for many of those involved--the volunteers, the donors, the diners, and St. George's itself, as a place of refuge, friendship, sustenance, and spirituality.

So, Happy fifth birthday to the Dragon Cafe!