Manna Cafe CI in Chincoteague, VA

"Nourishing body and soul"

Lines are out the door for Manna Cafe CI’s Monday lunches. (Credit: Fran Lytle)

Every Monday, a large group of volunteers serves a free hot lunch to everyone in the Chincoteague community. Started by Fran and Bill Lytle in 2017 to combat food insecurity and provide a comfortable place for elderly people and the rest of the community to find fellowship. On the first Monday, Manna Cafe CI served 16 guests. Currently, they’re serving over 350 guests each week. The lunch is freshly made by Bill Lytle, who prepares meals that his family loves. It always includes a main course, vegetable, tossed green salad, and dessert. Beginning in October 2017, Manna Cafe CI began delivering free hot lunches to people who are homebound. The first time we did this, eight lunches were delivered. Now, Manna Cafe CI delivers almost 50 lunches every week, in addition to serving the hundreds of guests at the facility.

Stories about Manna Cafe

At Manna Cafe CI, a free hot lunch is served every Monday, including holidays. Since Christmas fell on a Monday in 2017, the Lytle’s wanted to have gifts for the children who would be enjoying lunch with their families on Christmas Day. They conducted a toy drive that resulted in more then 200 gifts for children from toddler to teen. When families arrived for lunch, children selected a present from the gift tables before enjoying lunch. The children were squealing with delight as they selected their gifts. Their joy was contagious.

Tables at Manna Cafe CI overflowing with donated Christmas gifts for young visitors. (Credit: Fran Lytle)

Memorial Day also fell on a Monday, so Manna Cafe CI served a free hot lunch on this holiday. The lunch includes hamburgers with all the fixings, potato salad, tossed green salad, and ice cream donated from the Island Creamery. One elderly guest shared that every Memorial Day, she hears the laughter and fun from a neighbor’s family party and she feels so lonely. At Manna Cafe CI, she felt that she was at a community party.

Volunteering to serve lunch gets you a front row seat to the kitchen magic! (Credit: Fran Lytle)

In an interview with Cooperative Living Magazine, one guest shared that his home burned down two days before Christmas. He and his wife heard about Manna Cafe CI, and have been coming every Monday since then. “People have been so good to us!” his wife shared, mentioning how they received donated items for their new home.

The Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives awarded Fran and Bill with the 2018 Good Samaritan Award. The A&N Electric Cooperative President and CEO Butch Williamson mentioned, “Fran and Bill’s vision provide both food and fellowship in a welcoming setting, which embodies the seventh cooperative principle, ‘Concern for Community.'”

2018 Good Samaritan Award

It was a complete surprise for the founders of Chincoteague's Manna Cafe CI, Bill and Fran Lytle… Find out more about the six-month secret revealed in this video and then read about it (in more depth) in the May issue of Cooperative Living Magazine. And, as always, please feel free to share this video. #freemeal #ministry #fellowship #mannacafe #doinggodswork #cooperativeliving #goodsamaritanaward #vmdaec #christunitedmethodistchurch A&N Electric Cooperative Chincoteague, Virginia Chincoteague Christ United Methodist Church Mister Whippy Chincoteague IslandBARC Electric Cooperative Craig Botetourt Electric Cooperative Community Electric Cooperative NOVEC Northern Neck Electric Cooperative Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Southside Electric Cooperative Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative

Posted by Cooperative Living Magazine on Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Loving Hearts and Hands table was started by a Manna Cafe CI volunteer who wanted to give guests an opportunity to shop for items and donate any money they could afford. It started in November 2017 to help guests to purchase gifts for their loved ones during the holiday season. It’s evolved to act as a general store, where guests can shop for gifts or items they need every day. Any money that guests do give for their items are donated to Manna Cafe CI to purchase food.

During the month of August, free school supplies are available for children to select from an assortment of items donated by individuals and businesses in the community. Manna Cafe CI also has a Take-1 table where guests can take free food and toiletries home to help them during the week. The food and toiletries are donated by individuals and businesses in the area. In 2017, we distributed coats to guests in need. The coats were donated by individuals and businesses in the community. Guests had the opportunity to select a coat when they were enjoying a free hot lunch. Over 300 coats were distributed last year. Manna Cafe CI has also partnered with the Eastern Shore Rural Health System, which sponsors one weekly lunch per month during 2018. Representatives are available to answer guests’ questions about healthcare and insurance. The Lytle’s encourage youth to volunteer at Manna Cafe CI, to give them the experience to be involved in ministries like Manna Cafe CI in the future. Manna Cafe CI is blessed to have youth volunteers from YouthWorks, Beta Club students, and middle school special education classes. The youth enjoy meeting and interacting with the guests and guests comment that Manna Cafe CI is full of extra joy when the youth participates.

Fran and Billy Lytle, Manna Cafe CI founders, in the kitchen. Bill only makes meals that his family loves. (Credit: Fran Lytle)

One elderly guest shared, “I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve made so many new friends.”

Manna Cafe CI is totally funded by donations so spreading the word about Manna Cafe CI helps us to obtain funds which helps us to spread the light.