Kim is concerned about homeless veterans.
Yolimar seeks to empower and support immigrant women.
Veronica wants to make sure that no one goes hungry.
These three people—and about 10 others—gathered on a recent Saturday morning in Midtown Scholar Bookstore to continue a months-long discussion about a new, ambitious project in Harrisburg.
It’s called Heartshine—part community space, part support network, with a pay-what-you-can restaurant at its core.
“There are a lot of people who are just punching the time card of their life,” said Kali Tennis, co-founder and board president of the nonprofit. “They think they’re alone, but they’re not.”
Kali arrived in Harrisburg several years ago when her husband, Gary, took a job with the state government. They came from Philadelphia, thinking they’d return there one day, but quickly fell in love with the quirky capital city.
“Harrisburg just lodged itself in our hearts—how sweet and small it is,” she said. “People notice when you’re gone, and they know your names.”
In her new city, Kali wanted to do something meaningful with her life. She and her husband already were familiar with a donation-based restaurant called EAT Café on the campus of Drexel University. Maybe that could work in Harrisburg, they thought.
“I was finding myself in homogenous spaces,” Kali said. “In Harrisburg, places can be fairly homogenous. I like it more when you bring folks together.”
Some Harrisburg residents may already be familiar with the future home of Heartshine, an 8,000-square-foot series of three connected buildings smack-dab in the middle of the 1100-block of N. 3rd Street.
For many years, the building housed Mode magazine and several apartments, and, since February, has sported a brightly painted entryway, with colorful writing on the windows welcoming the community to monthly organizational meetings at Midtown Scholar.
Those meetings have attracted dozens of people, many interested in lending their unique talents to the cause—whether to help out in the kitchen, teach a class or assist in any other way.
Janet and Doug Shenk were Kali and Gary’s first recruits.
Years ago, Janet had heard about pay-what-you-can restaurants, which have opened in many cities, and the concept always intrigued her. So, when Kali proposed the idea, she was “ready to jump off the cliff,” she said.
Actually, husband Doug, the executive chef at the now-closed Camp Hill restaurant Fraiche, was the person in their sights. Janet had been a pastry chef there, as well.
“We thought we were trying to recruit Doug, and we recruited Janet,” Kali said.
They actually recruited them both. Janet is now executive director of Heartshine, and Doug will be the chef in the kitchen. In fact, they are in Fort Worth, Texas, right now embedding with the Taste Project, a successful nonprofit eatery there.
“It’s going to be ever-changing and interesting food,” said Janet, who stressed that meals will be healthy, with lots of soups, fresh breads and pizza right out of wood-fired oven. “I’m very excited about the menu.”
Kali wanted to make certain that one thing is clear—the food and service will be first-rate.
“Our model is a full-service restaurant—a sit-down meal,” she said. “The experience won’t be any different from a traditional restaurant.”
With one exception, of course—payment will be donation-based.
But, indeed, the entire approach is unique, as the restaurant will serve just one aspect of a greater whole. The first phase of the project includes the restaurant, a large community studio, a courtyard entrance and an office. A second phase will include a cooperative care team room, a community room and two apartments for transitional housing for women.
The first phase is set to open on Feb. 14, a year-to-the-day since the public launch and not coincidentally on Valentine’s Day.
The yearlong planning process not only allowed the core group to organize, prepare and learn, but has permitted them to hold monthly meetings and recruit staff and volunteers.
“In our model, volunteering will be in fair exchange for your meal,” Kali said. “We can make an accommodation for everybody. We can always find something for someone to do.”
Heartshine is slated to open Feb. 14 at 1120 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. The group will hold a “Friendraiser Cookout” on Oct. 12, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the courtyard of the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg. For more information, to volunteer and to purchase tickets, visit www.heartshine.org.