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Helping the Community with Coffee and More

Chesapeake Church provides 1.7 million pounds of food annually

       Drive past most any place of worship in the middle of the day in the middle of the week and you might see a few more cars than at a Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday.
       But make a pilgrimage to the Chesapeake Church any day, most any time of the week, and you would think you’ve parked in front of a new coffee boutique at a ski lodge or …
     Step inside, and you wonder, is it a church, or is it a coffee bar? Is it a new restaurant or a discount food warehouse club?
      Whatever it is, it’s busy.
      You’ll find a menu full of the usual cafe options, including breakfast, lunch, fresh pastries as well as the finest of Honduran coffees. But what about ending hunger in Calvert County? Taking a trip to Honduras to share medicine, clean water and food? Supporting restaurant management training for low-income, under-employed or unemployed teens and adults?
       Choices, choices, choices.
Good Choices
     There weren’t always good choices for the community church’s pastor, Robert Hahn. Boxed into an unfulfilling career at the Environmental Protection Agency, Hahn, now 60, says he felt life squeezing in. The pressures drove him to find answers.
       “I locked myself in the bathroom and crumbled to the floor in prayer,” he says laughing. “Big tough guy. I surrendered to Jesus and dedicated my life to helping others. Food, water, hope: This is my way of giving back for all the things I took for granted.”
      Hahn, who had attended services at Chesapeake Church, was encouraged to lead the church in 1988 when the pastoral vacancy remained unfilled. Thankfully, he says, the vision and hopes for the congregation are shared by many others.
       “We have a large staff with seven pastors,” Hahn says. He quickly checks with a staffer who knows better and returns sheepishly. “Make it eight pastors. We’re constantly growing!”
       The parking area at Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown is football-field spacious. It needs to be for the nearly 2,000 who attend three weekly services … the cadre of millennials staffing computers or manning ministries … the team of millennials providing child care for the cadre … the restaurant staff … the offices of End Hunger in Calvert County and Honduras Compassion Partners … and the seven to eight hundred families that arrive weekly to fill up their bags from the far-corner food pantry warehouse managed by still more staff, including Jackie Head, 49, who along with her family, has volunteered here for 15 years.
From Frozen Chicken to Honduran Coffee
       “We give food to anyone who is hungry,” says Head. “It’s very rewarding to see the relief on a parent’s face when you say, Help yourself to anything here. You need not qualify.” 
      Fresh-grown food comes from local Calvert County farmers. Other food goods and household supplies are provided by corporate entities including Giant Foods, Starbucks, Walmart and WaWa.
      “All in all, we estimate the organizations here provide Calvert County with about 1.7 million pounds of food,” Hahn says. That is the annual estimate. Oddly enough, it began with frozen chicken.
      “We began with the Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry 15 years ago,” Hahn says. “But it was in name only. We had no facilities to speak of. Someone called and said they had chicken to give us. I said how much chicken? They said 20,000 pounds. I looked at our tiny kitchen fridge and the small portable beer cooler, swallowed hard and said, ‘Okay, we’ll take it!’”
     That’s how it began.
      How does a church go from feeding the flock and feeding the hungry to serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and fresh pastries? Where does a coffee bar serving Honduran coffee fit in with Honduran Compassion Partners and hungry Calvert County residents? What is brewing here?
      Jackie Miller, president of End Hunger in Calvert County, sheds some light.
“Medical teams, youth teams, family counselors and men’s teams from the church go to Honduras about 10 times a year,” Miller says. “We provide clean water, sanitary facilities, healthy food, medical supplies to the clinics there and, hopefully, personal dignity.”
      On these trips, Miller saw first-hand how others struggled to live and how that struggle affected them spiritually and emotionally. “I came home with a different world perspective,” she says, “and got involved with the food pantries here.”
      While in Honduras, the teams enjoyed Honduran coffee. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine enjoying it here. The coffee bar idea grew into a full-fledged restaurant, where 93 cents of every dollar spent goes back into Honduran ministries and feeding Calvert County’s hungry. 
     “We not only feed people but also train them in the food industry,” Miller says. “The Lobby Coffee Bar & Café partners with End Hunger in Calvert County through training programs designed to help people learn a trade and become self-sufficient.” 
      So, if you’re not too busy, come and relax at Chesapeake Church’s new Lobby Coffee Bar & Café. There are plenty of good things to eat and much to see.