Maggie Kane is the Founder and Executive Director of A Place at the Table, the first pay-what-you-can cafe in downtown Raleigh.
She graduated from North Carolina State University in 2013 and began working for a nonprofit with people experiencing homelessness. By befriending many people living on the margins, she knew something needed to be done.
Maggie has a heart to serve, a desire to always be inclusive, and a passion for loving people. Through her work with people on the streets, she realized the power of community, the importance of dignity, and the beauty in bringing people together over incredible food. February 2015, A Place at the Table was birthed and Maggie never looked back. A Place at the Table opened in January of 2018 serving thousands of people in Raleigh with a dignified, healthy, and affordable meal. However, more importantly, a meal that feeds more than just the stomach– it feeds your hearts, souls, and minds.
Outside of the cafe, you will catch her running marathons and eating peanut butter! But…you will mainly find her at the cafe right now loving on people all day.
Maggie and I chat about how she began developing relationships with people who sleep outside and how those relationships led to A Place at the Table Cafe which seeks to build community and serve healthy food to all regardless of means. Not only are they seeking to live out their mission at the Table, they are DOING IT! This conversation is fantastic, because it is all about a dream becoming a reality and that dream was based on the least of these.
4:02 Maggie begins sharing the backstory of A Place At the Table
She began volunteering at Love Wins: a day shelter.
“When I started volunteering with this day shelter it changed my world. It changed my life. I fell in love with the people. I feel in love with building relationships with folks who live outside and they became some of my best friends.”
6:39 “God definitely called me to stay here. I saw there was this great need here and I could not imagine leaving this day shelter. I could not imagine leaving all these relationships that I had met and grown and been a part of for the past two years. So we built my position. I became the operations director [at Love Wins] and I ran the day shelter. We saw about 70 people a day coming in, getting out of the cold. That was a fantastic job. I learned so much there. Everything, I am now able to use in my own ministry”
7:16 Maggie shares about how she felt while volunteering in soup kitchens as a young girl.
“Fast forward when I am working with folks experiencing homelessness or poverty I started to go to the soup kitchen with them. I was very intentional about being with people and building community and wanting to know them more, so we would maybe go to a soup kitchen or eat together. What I found was we would get handed a plate, before that we would have to wait in line outside…we didn’t get to choose what we want, then we’d have to eat in about 5 minutes, so someone else could come in and eat. There is nothing wrong with soup kitchens, because they serve a purpose, they serve a need, they feed 300 people in an hour, they do what they can do and it is amazing, but in my life that is not my experience. I eat wherever I want, whenever I want, whatever I want, so I started taking people out for meals. I found they wanted to go to place like Golden Corral or K & W Cafeteria and I asked, ‘Why?’ They said because, ‘Maggie, we get to choose what we want…and we get to be treated like a human. People look at us like we are valued, that we have worth, that we’re not just some invisible person they’re passing on the street. We get served and we have that dignity while dining.’ It was then I started thinking, we have got to do something different here in Raleigh.”
There are over 60 pay what you can systems around the country.
F.A. R. M. café in Boone, NC: Feed All Regardless of Means.
Table incorporated as a business in January 2015. Then, applied for non-profit status
12:15 “I started working in restaurants at night, because I also knew I needed to learn how to run a restaurant. I needed to learn how to manage people. I needed to learn different skills. I grew up working in restaurants since I was 15, 14, so I had worked in them, but I had never managed one. I had a great friend who gave me an opportunity to manage her restaurant.”
“I have an incredible family who has supported me from the beginning.”
FYI, if you are a Raleighite, Maggie sets the record straight. She is not related to John and Willow Kane of Kane reality.
15:47 “This whole movement of A Place At The Table, of 3 ½ years of building it is God. That is the reason we are doing it. We are not a faith-based organization, but most of us come from faith backgrounds, because we have seen God working this whole entire time. Again, none of us had any idea what we were doing, but God provided people at every step of the way….”
16:34 Maggie shares about her and board member/friend, Allison sharing a word with one another when they would experience “God winks.”
17:10 Maggie shares how A Place At The Table acquired their brick and mortar at 300 W. Hargett St.
There was a 3 year journey prior to acquiring a space for her dream to become a reality.
“We were this concept and not a product, so it was hard to prove to landlords and other people that we were going to be a place like we are now. So for years, it took us telling the story, getting people excited, proving that we weren’t going anywhere.”
Eventually, they started hosting pop-up brunch every 2ndSaturday of the month at a different restaurant.
20:42 “By the end of them, we had 400 people at these pop-up brunches, in a 3 hour period….I have this great picture of Kristin Cooper (our governor’s wife) sitting across from a girl I go to the gym with, a guy I know who sleeps outside every night, and all these different people sharing conversation and just chatting….That really let us to live our mission, see that we wanted to do it, see that the community was ready for it, and then when we got our location, we were ready to go.”
21:16 Maggie begins to share about the spring of 2017 and being ready to give up before things began to take off.
“We spent 3 years friend-raising instead of fundraising, so 3 years building friends to now allow us to do what we do.”
22:48 Maggie shares about the regular volunteers that started at The Table who have become the core volunteer base that help The Table run on a daily basis.
23:52 Maggie shares what A Place At The Table is like today
“We ask you volunteer, not because we think people need to work for their meal. We ask you to volunteer, because it is your way of being a part of the community. At the end of the day, our main mission is to provide community and healthy food for all regardless of means. “
26:10 “We knew the food had to be good, because people will come out once for a good cause, but they’ll come out again if the food is awesome, the experience is awesome. “
27:20 Maggie expounds on the jobs all volunteers participate in and how The Table does not differentiate between volunteers.
“It truly does work. The model works. And what we are finding is people want to be a part of it. They love volunteering. They love feeling like they have a place. That they have people that love them, that care for them. And so, yes, the model works. It has worked far better than we ever thought it would.”
“The goal is that everyone is working on making this café happen together and not showing this separation of people with money and people without money.”
“I think people feel good when they come eat at A Place At The Table that they are doing good. It is an easy place to pay it forward.”
33:08 “So for you to be able to come in with a token or even volunteer for your meal and be able to order whatever you want, because some days are just waffle days and some days I want a healthy salad. To be able to choose and to be able to sit and have a meal in dignity and get a re-fill on your tea or a re-fill on your coffee and just be. I think that is important.”
33:50 Maggie shares Dino’s story and the story of her staff working at A Place At The Table