It’s 5:30 on a Tuesday morning, the alarm goes off, and volunteers of the Jubilee Café get ready to head to the First United Methodist Church to serve a free breakfast to those in need.
Mallory Harger, junior at KU, and Jacob Murray, senior at KU, are this year’s program coordinators of the Jubilee Café. This community outreach provides breakfast Tuesdays and Fridays for anyone in the community who needs it.
The Jubilee Café was founded in 1994 as a collaboration between KU’s Community Center for Outreach and the First United Methodist Church in downtown Lawrence. What makes this community outreach different from others is the personal interaction volunteers have with the community.
“That’s something Jubilee has always prided itself on,” Harger said. “We serve restaurant-style so we get to be the waitress and actually talk and mingle with the guests.”
This is the second year Harger has served as the program coordinator. She started out volunteering at the Jubilee Café by helping a fellow sorority sister, and what started out as a volunteer engagement ended up in her deciding to become a program coordinator.
“Freshman year one of my sorority sisters wanted to get some service hours out of the way and so she invited me to come to Jubilee with her, and I went with her and I just loved it and had a blast and kept going every week from then on,” Harger said. “I got to know one of the coordinators and she encouraged me to apply.”
As for Murray, he’s a month into being a program coordinator and has volunteered a few times himself.
“I had the opportunity to be a part of the program, to volunteer a couple of times throughout college and when I was looking at my year I was like, I want to get involved in something meaningful,” Murray said.
Murray described the Jubilee Café as something that consistently makes him aware of the actual need in the community.
“I think that this position it redeems you like over and over again because you kind of see the direct need in the community that is being served,” Murray said.
Murray talked about how the Jubilee Café is unlike other volunteer programs. From his perspective, “a lot of volunteer programs you may do in your life seem pretty removed” from the need or even “pretty robotic”, but that’s not how Jubilee Café is setup.
Harger agreed that the exposure to the immediate need is what makes Jubilee Café different from other community outreaches.
“I think a lot of people are just so removed from the issue,” Harger said. “One of my favorite things about Jubilee is you get to meet the guest and get to know them on a more personal, one-on-one level, and it makes you come face to face with the issue of in-need people in our community.”
The Jubilee Café, on average, has five to 20 volunteers a morning serving the guests. In fact, it’s the outreach program that many KU students flock to for service hours, especially for its convenient time.
“I think that the program is pretty well embedded in KU. It’s got a pretty good reach, I think, as far as the volunteers that we’re getting,” Murray said. “People know others who have volunteered or who has volunteered themselves so there’s really no shortage of people who come.”
Recent changes have been made this past year to improve the efficiency of the café, including the church hiring a chef, which takes a weight off of Murray and Harger.
Murray says the recent changes seem to be going well and that the church has recently looked at their resources to “stream line their efforts” and to see what could be done on their end. Both the church and the Community Center for Outreach at KU has looked at what they both be doing better to more efficiently help the community.
As for Murray and Harger, the joy of being able to help those in need is enough for the early mornings they endure on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“I love Jubilee because it’s pretty simple,” Murray said. “We serve food and we spend time with guests that have a need.”