The Rev. Laura Evans Mahn received a financial helping hand on Thursday, Sept. 8, that will help her goal of feeding hungry people in the Quad Cities community.
She was presented a $10,000 grant check and a Nation of Neighbors Empowerment Award from Royal Neighbors of America during a brief ceremony at the NEST Cafe, 1524 Fourth Ave., Rock Island.
Ms. Mahn is the founder and executive director of NEST Cafe, a nonprofit, pay-what-you-can restaurant. That cafe, which has a mission to provide delicious, sustainably sourced food to all who enter, regardless of the size of their means, will benefit from the grant from the Rock Island-based Royal Neighbors.
“This is huge. This will mean we can keep the doors open here a little longer,” Ms. Mahn told the QCBJ shortly before the ceremony.
The money, which will go into a general fund to help with NEST Cafe with many of its operations, also helps her reach her goal of securing $90,000 in grants this year to keep the cafe running and moving forward.
The NEST Cafe has been feeding many residents across the community since it opened five months ago. She said the immediate goal for the cafe is to “keep on doing what we do well.”
The cafe provides healthy food and has a menu that changes every day. For instance, on Thursday, it was serving up a menu that included a house salad, mashed potatoes with veggies, chicken and a drop biscuit, and a triple berry dessert.
However, people attending the ceremony pointed out that the NEST Cafe is more than a place to get food. It is also a place where people make connections with agencies, jobs and with others in the community.
“This grant will help them accomplish even more,” said Connie Avey, a Royal Neighbors member, who nominated Ms. Mahn for the award.
“Laura and her team understand the difference a delicious, nutrient-dense meal can make when someone is able to eat it with dignity. Women don’t have to experience the stigma of going to a ‘free meal.’ Children are able to witness their mothers paying for an amazing meal, without having to know that they may have paid less than someone else,” Ms. Avey said in a news release.
NEST uses volunteers from across the economic spectrum. “At any given time, there can be someone volunteering in exchange for a meal next to someone volunteering for community service hours, next to someone doing so because their job encourages civic engagement which builds relationships and opportunities,” added Ms. Avey.
During Thursday’s ceremony, Curt Zeck, Royal Neighbors’ interim president and CEO, said the good work done at the NEST Cafe causes a “ripple effect” of good deeds in the community.
The award and grant presented to Ms. Mahn is one of 10 presentations being made by Royal Neighbors nationwide this fall.
Royal Neighbors, a fraternal benefit society located in downtown Rock Island, has about 250,000 members nationwide. Its mission is to support women and serve communities. Its signature women’s empowerment program, Nation of Neighbors, recognizes and supports women who work to empower women and girls through a nonprofit, business, or program.