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Man Broke After Four Years of Feeding Poor

December 18, 1986

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ A man who turned his house into a free cafe for the hungry and a shelter for the homeless says he’s gone broke nearly four years after answering President Reagan’s call that people help the needy.

″I’m at the bottom of the barrel,″ said William Land. ″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, 59, said he quit his job as a welder in early 1983 after hearing Reagan urge the private sector to ease the strain on government by helping the poor.

Land and his wife, Dorothy, coverted a part of their home into the Cozy Kitchen Cafe, and provided shelter for dozens of families. They relied solely on donations and Mrs. Land’s income as an accountant.

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

The couple spent $68,400, and sold a car and property to help defray expenses. All they own now is their home about 15 miles southeast of St. Louis.

″It really is almost a one-man ministry,″ said the Rev. Ray Hinchman, pastor of Faith Alliance Church in Caseyville, where Land was a member. ″Bill has gone above and beyond in his ability to really help people.″

Land said he and his wife opened their home to the needy 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.″

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

A nearby sign reads: ″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.″

″People are coming in, and he’s helping them out,″ said Lt. Gerald Rowland, director of the local Salvation Army. ″But I think what he’s mostly accomplished is bringing the need to the public’s attention. He’s very vocal.″

″Because of our economy, because of the existing conditions in this nation, we have hundreds of thousands of people wandering from one point to another, looking for solutions to their problems,″ said Land. ″Isn’t it time we quit kidding ourselves? This problem is a national disaster, and we’re standing back and saying it will solve itself. But it won’t.″

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