Andy Kegley '77 never thought he would stay in Wytheville, VA after working a summer job on his family's farm; but one summer grew into a permanent stay and a passion for his local community.
Andy started at North Cross in 6th grade with his siblings Mary Louise "Sissy" '78, Robert '81, and Richard '83. It was at North Cross that Andy learned how to become a better reader, writer, and critical thinker, thanks to teachers like Richard Cook, Bob Robertson, and Hugh Meagher. "I also enjoyed the Outdoors Program, which was led by Middle and Upper School Biology teacher, Max Travis. That laid a foundation for my love of the outdoors, and because of that, I went on to study and eventually major in Natural Resources at Sewanee."
After graduating from Sewanee, Andy started working on his family's farm (which has been in the Kegley family for 5 generations). What started off as a summer job working in the dairy barn, turned into a passion that ended up having a farther reach than he ever thought. "Working there gave me a new appreciation for farmers and the work they do--I believe farmers should be compensated as much as lawyers."
Andy continued to work and live on his family's farm while simultaneously working with local government and non-profits. He eventually accepted the Executive Director position at HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty's Existence) Wytheville in 1994. "HOPE provides tools to build community sustainability and independence for individuals and families in Wythe County and surrounding areas. We help with housing, crisis intervention, and food security."
After years of building HOPE, the closing of a local homeless shelter in 2012 led to a new venture. Suddenly, there was no place for transient individuals and food insecure families to have a hot meal. HOPE responded to this loss by collaborating and planning with the local community to "open" Open Door Cafe, Southwest Virginia's first pay-what-you-can restaurant. Anyone can enjoy a delicious, hot meal, regardless of their ability to pay. "The Cafe serves lunch Monday-Friday and has been so popular in the community, we decided to add a Wednesday night dinner. The response within the community has been overwhelming--on any given day, we have 20 volunteers serving 80 individuals."
According to Andy, about 60% of Cafe customers pay the $8 suggested donation for their meal, 20% of customers give more, and another 20% donate less than $8, or volunteer their time in exchange for a meal. Customers can also purchase meal tokens to give away themselves or to put in the pay-it-forward jar for anyone who needs it.
"We are serving people in our community who need help and we are sourcing our food from local farmers and vendors. Many food insecure individuals and families don't have easy access to healthy food--at Open Door Cafe we always make sure we have delicious and nutritious food."
Click for more information about HOPE and go enjoy a delicious meal at Open Door Cafe!