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Jackson church becomes a place for people to come eat, enjoy live music and more

Cafe Connection
Cafe Connection
Posted at 4:46 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-15 16:46:54-05

JACKSON, Mich. — Logan Dodge was challenged to come up with an idea to get more community engagement at First Baptist Church.

“We didn’t have a true connection to the people who live right across the street from us or down the street, so we wanted to figure out a way to how we can make the church more welcoming,” he said.

He saw an idea on Facebook where a church based in California would serve Thanksgiving dinner restaurant style.

“He was clearly passionate about it and had a great vision for it, and it kind of fit the bill of like what is extravagant enough that it pushes us because we don’t know how we will actually make it happen,” Rev. Dallas Flippin said.

Dodge took it a step further and made it a weekly stop called Café Connection.

“It’s not a soup line. It’s not a kitchen. We’re going to serve the people like a restaurant,” he said.

And, that’s what they did. They had their soft opening a little more than a year ago.

“It was nice because there were people we knew, and they weren’t too hard on us,” Dodge said.

But then, came the grand opening a week later.

Cafe Connection
Patrons dining at Cafe Connection inside First Baptist Church

“I think we had about 50 people our first week, which to us was like, ‘woah, how are we ever going to do this?’ And, then it just kept coming, and they never really stopped,” he said.

Café Connection is completely volunteer based. The church has been regularly drawing in 100 people a week recently.

“It’s just really cool to see guests when they walk in the door, and they might not know what they’re expecting,” Flippin said. “They might think it’s a regular soup kitchen or food pantry or something like that, and they have some trepidation of walking in sometimes. Then, you look and you’re like wait there’s menus and wait there’s servers.”

Every Wednesday, the church turns into a restaurant from 4:30-7 p.m., complete with hosts, servers and kitchen staff.

“Today’s my first night volunteering here,” Yasmine Tucker said. “I wanted to give back to communities. It’s a great concept, and I think just being able to feed people in a not so judgmental way as if they’re at a dine-in restaurant is the best idea. It’s awesome to help those in need.”

It’s open to the public, so anyone can come in and grab a hot home-cooked meal.

“What it’s morphed into now is a safe place where we see a lot of the same people every single week and some that came by themselves in the beginning are now sitting with other people that came separately. They had no connection before,” Dodge said. “Now, they have this to look forward to on a Wednesday. Come and eat dinner together and have conversation.”

First Baptist Church is located on 201 S. Jackson St.

You can also make reservations online.

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