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By Melissa Hoffman '10
The SAME Café needs your vote.
Libby Birky, a 2002 Bradley alumnae, and her husband Brad own the Denver restaurant where everyone is served a nutritious meal regardless of whether they can pay. NBC News with Brian Williams featured SAME Café on the first “Making a Difference” segment last spring, and today you can vote for SAME Café to help it win $10,000.
Diners at the SAME Café, which stands for So All May Eat, don’t receive a bill for their order. Since October 2006, everyone has received a free meal, but is asked to volunteer or make a donation in return for their meal.
After years of volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, the two central Illinois natives operate the café and collect an average of about $5 per person per day. Some customers with no money sign up to volunteer for an hour cleaning tables and floors or preparing food; others leaves a sizeable donation.
Originally, Libby moved to Denver for a teaching job. Desiring a shift away from computer consulting work, Brad enrolled in culinary school. Now Brad works full-time at SAME Café, and Libby helps in the evenings after teaching gifted children at the Logan School for Creative Learning.
The café’s survival would surprise bank and government officials who denied the Birkys a loan to start the café. They were repeatedly advised not to cash in their IRAs and loan their business $30,000 to add to the $3,000 from friends and family to start the restaurant.
The café has space for 14 patrons to enjoy healthy meals inside, and 30 people can dine outdoors. The menu changes daily but always features a savory soup, salad and pizza.
“We try to cook as fresh as possible,” Libby said. “In the summertime, we’re sometimes serving food that has been out of the ground less than an hour or two.”
By voting for Brad and Libby as the hometown heroes who are making a difference in their community, they will be eligible for a $10,000 prize from MSN. The competition includes other eligible charities featured on NBC Nightly News.
To vote for SAME Café, click here and vote for the “Best Hometown Hero.” Click on the dot under the photo of Brad and Libby Birky, provide your email address, the security code and click “Submit Your Votes.” Cast your vote before January 11, 2010 and help SAME Café win $10,000 to provide nutritious meals.