MOUNT VERNON — The chance to grab a bite to eat, play a few games or just hang out with friends is once again available for youth in Mount Vernon. Open for business at 208 E. Ohio Ave. (rear) is the Red Kettle Cafe, formerly known as The Harbor. Owned and operated by The Salvation Army, the Red Kettle Cafe reopened in mid-April with some renovations completed after being closed down for a few weeks.
“Some renovations were needed, and this was just a way of giving us a new start,” said manager Joe Pittinger in referring to the recent name change.
Originally opened in 2001, Red Kettle Cafe is a part of Harbor Ministries, where the mission is the same that it’s always been. “If you’re looking for a place to hang out, we offer a safe, positive environment,” said Pittinger. “We look for the needs in the community and try to meet them.”
One main difference visitors to Red Kettle Cafe will see is that food is now available at fixed pricing, rather than on a donation basis as before. “Our hope was always that people would donate enough when coming in for a meal. And we found that this was not always the case,” said Pittinger. “It just wasn’t good for our budget.”
He said a food assistance program is being worked out for those who cannot afford to buy a meal. Those who qualify may be able to obtain vouchers for meals through The Salvation Army once the program kicks off.
A full menu is available for those wanting breakfast, lunch and dinner with a wide variety of items for adults and children. “It’s very reasonable prices. We try to be fair,” said Pittinger.
A few cooks are paid currently to man the kitchen at Red Kettle while servers volunteer their time for tips. The staff at the Red Kettle Cafe also offers catering services for those who are hosting an event for a large party.
While these changes are taking place at the Cafe, other ventures at Harbor Ministries are seeing changes as well. A theater in the upper level is new this past year as drama productions have already been presented with Orange Barrel Productions. There is also a weight room, video games, a pool table, a Foosball table and outdoor basketball court to keep the most active youth occupied. Adult mentors are often present to provide support.
Other programs coming soon include a Homework Club and a young adult group.
“We want to get some growth involved in [youth],” said Pittinger. “We also want to teach good work ethics.” Support is also being utilized by students at the Knox County Career Center and Mount Vernon Nazarene University. “Some students are learning job skills. Others are here for social work observation.”
Hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.; and Saturday from 7 a.m.-noon. Expanded hours are being considered for the future. Pittinger stated that signs for better visibility of Red Kettle Cafe are in the works.
“All programs are supported by The Salvation Army,” said Pittinger. “There is a need in our community. Come give us a try.”