In a common room in Kentway Apartments just after 5 p.m., over 30 people of different ages and backgrounds gather around tables. Each person is there for the same reason, to eat dinner.
Laura Berg and Kathy Bates, residents of Kentway Apartments, are two attendees who come weekly when their health doesn't hold them back from enjoying a meal together.
They both agree the food and people bring them back each week, but “not only that, it’s the kids [volunteers], it’s nice to be around young people,” Bates said.
Kent State’s branch of Campus Kitchen takes about 20 volunteers to prepare the meals with food donated from Trader Joe’s for residents at Kentway Apartments. The program called Kentway Café started early in the spring semester 2019 and runs every other Tuesday.
Dominique Reed, a senior integrated studies major and one of the volunteers, was a Girl Scout growing up so, community service is “a part of everything I do,” she said.
Earlier that same day, Reed and other volunteers were in the kitchen in Beall Hall preparing the chili, peas, cornbread, potatoes, raspberries and blueberries that would be served to the guests.
Reed joined the program through her friend Kristen Lyda who joined Campus Kitchen through Kent State's Summer Advantage program.
“It [volunteering] really means a lot," Lyda said. "It really makes me happy, seeing people's faces light up and doing something to help somebody."
The Kentway Café brings people from the community and the school together in an event based around food, said Robert Guard, the manager of Campus Kitchen.
“You can see the community built, not just between students and the people who live here, but the people who live here between each other,” said Guard.
After everyone is served, volunteers gather at the tables with the residents and have conversations about their pets, their families and the food.
Although the event is not broadcasted, everyone is welcome, said Jacqueline Flannery, the activities coordinator at Kentway Apartments.
“I feel if you need a meal you should show up here because we don’t want anyone to go without,” she said.
When the program started in the spring, nobody talked. One person suggested bringing music for the next dinner. By the end of the month, the music wasn’t needed; new friendships were formed, old friendships were rekindled and new romances were going on, Flannery said.
“To see all of that come together,” she said. “It’s huge in your heart.”
Autumn Rietzel covers student life. You can contact her at email@example.com.