MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Salvation Army of Marion, Monongalia and Preston Counties is not the sort of organization to use the word “hope” loosely. That’s why calling its new feeding program “Hope Café” signified something significant.

On Wednesday, May 12, the nonprofit held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to, officially, commemorate the opening of Hope Café. The café is located on 20 Scott Ave., in the old Ramada Inn, which is being turned into a one-stop shop for nonprofits. Lt. Nicole Greenland, who helps run the organization, said the new space can fit 300–400 people, which she described as “awesome.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re homeless,” she said. “Once you’re hungry, you can come on up to the Salvation Army on Mount Hope to come and eat in our Hope Café.”

The Salvation Army has always provided meals five days a week to the food insecure, and it will continue to do just that. Lt. Sheldon Greenland, who also helps to run the nonprofit, said the only change will be the fact that meals will be served until a later time.

The new Scott Avenue location, he said, is conducive to serving meals later in the day. It also allows the Salvation Army to serve meals indoors, something it’s been unable to do for roughly 18 months.

The pandemic, Greenland said, forced it to only offer carry-out meals, which took some of the joy and hope out of the whole experience. But, now with a bigger space, clients can return indoors.

This was cause for excitement, he said.

Lt. Nicole Greenland agreed.

“It feels wonderful because now we’re able to have people come in in-person, and we can still do the CDC guidelines by having them six feet apart,” she said.  “They’re welcome to come in, and we just set that atmosphere of a home, where they can come in, eat and feel like they are eating mama’s cooking.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was well attended, as more than 30 people were there. West Virginia University President Gordon Gee made some remarks, and so did board members of the Salvation Army.

Their messages were short, simple and shared a theme. That theme was hope, which they said is what the Salvation Army represents.

“When you see the red shield logo, know that it represents help and hope to those who most need it in our backyard,” Salvation Army Advisory Board Chairperson Jessica Dunlevy said.

Lt. Nicole Greenland said she was appreciative of WVU and Dunlevy’s involvement with the nonprofit.

She added that there are countless other partners that have made Hope Café possible, and that she can’t thank them enough.

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude because, you know, it takes a lot of hands to make the work lighter,” she said.  “So, to be able to partner with others, it’s tremendous.  Because now we’re able to extend our feeding program and help even more people.  So, the more people that come along with us, we’re able to really do the most good in our community.”

Now that Hope Café is open, the real work is just beginning, Greenland said.

To run a space capable of catering to hundreds of people takes a lot of work, she said, and the hope is that the community will step up to help.

“We, still, do need people to come in and help us. Whether you know how to cook, whether you just want to come and help serve a meal,” she said.

There are other ways of helping the Salvation Army other than physically volunteering time, Greenland added. Most people think the only other way to help is through monetary means.

While that is “important,” Greenland said, there are other ways the community can help.

“Please continue to help us to do the most good by sending in your checks, by even sending a thank you letter, or a letter of hope to the clients that we serve.”

The launch of Hope Café is part of National Salvation Army Week, which the Salvation Army of Marion, Monongalia and Preston Counties has been celebrating all week.