KENTON — It’s not just a meal at a restaurant. It’s a ministry at Table One.
“It’s Biblical. Jesus ate with people,” said Philip Compton, one of three United Methodist pastors who co-founded the restaurant. “He ate with a lot of different people. If you look at Matthew 25, ‘When did we see you hungry and you fed me?’”
Table One, 1 Detroit St., Kenton, is open to the public 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Sunday near the Hardin County Courthouse. The spot of the former B.R. Brunson’s has offered food for decades, but there’s something missing from the menu. There are no prices.
Regardless of your means, you can eat there. If you can afford it, you might pay a little more than your food costs to help the next person. If you can’t, you might rely on the generosity of strangers or volunteer at the restaurant.
“We want them to have a place where they can come and have a good meal, whether they can afford it or not,” said Compton, one of the local winners of the Jefferson Awards for Community Service. He’ll learn March 26 if he’ll represent the region at the national awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
There’s so much more than food in play at Table One since it opened May 31, 2016, though. There’s dignity in the work.
“No one wants to feel indebted to anybody else,” said Jennifer McMurray, the board chair for Table One, a 501(c)3 charity. “Whenever they take something that’s free, they’re still feeling in debt they need to pay. By allowing them to volunteer with us, there is no debt. It wipes the slate clean.”
The restaurant helped wipe the slate clean for Jyoti Minix. Hardin County’s drug court sent her to Table One for community service. After she completed it, she stuck around, eventually becoming the kitchen manager. She met her eventual husband there too. Others followed a similar path, she said.
“It’s helped me be a better person and look at life in a different way,” said Minix, who also hosts a Narcotics Anonymous meeting at the restaurant. “You can still help someone.”
Compton, a retired professor at Ohio Northern University who now works as pastor at Rhinehart United Methodist Church, , models that. He and his wife, LaDonna, volunteer as wait staff at Table One every Tuesday.
“Usually if there’s no price on something, you can’t afford it,” Compton joked. “… We have to explain, even though it’s on the back of the menu. People say, ‘That’s a neat idea.’”
He beams as he talks about Table One’s weekly community dinner, held 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays.
Compton also helped co-found and served as a board member and president for the West Ohio Food Bank, works as fire chaplain for the Ada-Liberty Township Fire Department and serves on suicide and stress management teams in Hardin County. In his retirement from higher education, he found a higher calling.