Local missionaries Rick and Traci Harvey are in "rebuild mode" after just one day of mourning the loss of Soul Food Cafe and Mission.
The husband and wife team who are at the helm of the mission lost the physical components of their ministry Sunday to a large fire, the second time in less than 10 years.
Two days before the mission’s fifth-year anniversary in 2006, their building and its contents burned in an apparent arson on the south edge of Conway.
The mission moved to what was to be a temporary location, a gym annex at Four Winds Church on Dave Ward Drive, the location of Sunday’s fire.
The Harveys’ operation, which has included a soup kitchen, clothes pantry and food box distribution point for those in need, is a "complete loss," Mike Winter, assistant Conway Department chief, said.
Winter said Monday that investigations into the fire’s origin have centered around a forklift and charger, though the department has not completely ruled out other possibilities.
No foul play is suspected, he said.
"Yesterday was a day of mourning. Unbelievable. Can’t believe it happened again," Harvey said. "This one really set us back because it burned our cardboard bailer, our floor cleaner, supplies, tons of food and clothing. We lost everything, just everything."
Despite the total loss, Harvey said that the mission would be open in one week to follow its regular Tuesday schedule of offering a breakfast, lunch, food boxes and a message to any who would take or listen.
"We’ll be closed tomorrow. We simply can’t scramble in time. Tentatively, we will be open somewhere on Tuesday, Aug. 30," said Harvey. "Several churches have offered their facilities for us."
Harvey said that the group would "do whatever it takes" to start offering services again as soon as possible.
"We’ve lost our place temporarily. We were very discouraged, confused. We were trying to figure out what God really wants to do here. Today, that’s behind us. We’re in rebuild mode," he said.
It has been on the Harveys’ minds to make a permanent home at 1717 South Donaghey Ave., and Harvey said that though short term plans have changed, the long range goal has remained the same.
A shell of a building stands at the address, but much work is left before the site may be used as a mission.
"We need to get this building going, but we need help. This will have a short term, overnight stay program. Conway doesn’t have that. There will be showers, a laundromat, an industrial kitchen, a drive-in freezer and storage for hundreds of pallets. We want to team with other agencies in town so that together we can help serve the people in need. This need is only going to get greater and we’ve got to have something in place," said Harvey.
Volunteers were selling raffle tickets to friends and family Monday for a building fundraiser to take place at Simon Park in October.
Local businesses and individuals have donated items like dinners, memberships and one-night hotel stays to be raffled at $1.
Harvey said that the fall festival will also include a midway at the park, several live entertainment acts and games for children.
"Faulkner County and Conway are great communities. Calls have been coming in. I believe as a community we can come together and get this rolling again to help these people," Harvey said.
A fund has been created at First Security Bank locations so that donations may be made to the group, and any who would like to provide non-perishable food items to the Soul Food Cafe and Mission may take them to Parisi Speed School at 575 Club Lane in Conway.
The mission cannot accept clothing donations at this time.
For all who have relied on the mission and its services, look to a future issue of the Log Cabin Democrat, where the Soul Food Cafe and Mission’s new temporary location will be announced.
"We’ll offer whatever services we can muster up. This will not stop us," Harvey said.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)