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Man Running Short on Money After Four Years of Feeding Poor

December 17, 1986

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ In 1983, heeding President Reagan’s plea for private aid to the needy, William Land quit his job and opened a cafe to feed the poor. Now Land says he and his wife are out of money and may have to close down.

″We bought President Reagan’s theory,″ said Land. ″But the private sector can’t afford to go any further. My wife and I can’t go any further.″

Land, 59, a former welder, and his wife, Dorothy, operate the Cozy Kitchen Cafe in a converted beauty parlor at their home, relying solely on donations and her income as an accountant.

The cafe seats 15 people. A microwave oven and coffee-maker sit on a shelf behind the counter. A pan marked ″donations″ hangs on a back wall.

Nearby is a sign reading: ″No charge for food items. This restaurant is operated on donations only, so that no one who comes leaves hungry because of a lack of money.″

Land said the couple spent $68,400 and sold a car and two pieces of property to help defray expenses, and all they own now is their home, located about 15 miles southeast of St. Louis.

″I’m at the bottom of the barrel,″ he said. ″And what concerns me the most is that last family we’ll be able to help - that last family that will call me very shortly - because we’re broke.″

Land said he and his wife opened the cafe because they believed one couple could make a difference in other people’s lives.

″If we were to die and kept everything we had, some lawyer and some judge would have decided what happened to it,″ he said. ″By doing what we’ve done for the past four years, we’ve made that decision. We saw where the money went.″

In addition to providing free meals, day or night, Land said he and his wife have opened their house to dozens of homeless families.

The Rev. Ray Hinchman of Faith Alliance Church in Caseyville, where Land once was a member, praises Land’s efforts, saying,″It really is a one-man ministry.″

″He’s very vocal,″ said Lt. Gerald Rowland of the Salvation Army in Belleville. ″Consequently, he has brought the problem to the attention of political people, which has brought help to the needy.″

″He does some beautiful things, but so does every other agency that’s working with the homeless and never gets any publicity,″ said Joe Hubbard, coordinator of Catholic Urban Programs in East St. Louis. ″I think he’s a real good person. But I don’t think you’re ever going to get anywhere by doing it on your own.″

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