REGIONAL INITIATIVE: Spark Café
The success of Spark Community Café proves that community foundations make philanthropic dreams a reality.
In 2014, Woodford County High School teacher Kyle Fannin created a social studies capstone course called Community Activism to provide seniors with real world learning experience before graduation.
The inaugural Community Activism class heard presentations on issues facing Woodford County, and ultimately settled on the revitalization of downtown Versailles for their class project. Thanks in part to a $2,000 grant from Woodford County Community Fund, the students’ project came to life as Spark: Ignite Downtown Versailles – a three day festival featuring live music, food trucks and local vendors designed to demonstrate the viability of doing business in downtown Versailles.
The interests of the Community Activism students evolved over the years, and so did their class project. The Spark: Ignite Downtown Versailles festival became Spark Café, a pop-up coffee shop to showcase the need for a community space in downtown Versailles. And two years ago, as the students learned more about the effects of food insecurity on their fellow Woodford Countians, they were inspired to rebrand as Spark Community Café – a farm-to-table, pay-it forward, nonprofit restaurant.
And all of this was accomplished by the Community Activism students without funding from the school system. “It would not have been possible without Blue Grass Community Foundation and Woodford County Community Fund [a geographic component fund of BGCF],” said Kyle, now a co-Executive Director of Spark Community Café, along with former Community Activism student Tristan Terrell.
Dating back to the beginning, the Spark projects have received multiple grants from Blue Grass Community Foundation and Woodford County Community Fund.
“But it goes beyond the fiscal sponsorship,” said Kyle. “It’s also the support, the answered questions and the help we received from BGCF staff.”
Spark Community Café opened in March and celebrated six months in business in October. And now its board wants to start an endowment at BGCF so they can shift some of their focus away from fundraising.
“The name recognition of BGCF is invaluable in the Bluegrass,” said Kyle. “Our association with BGCF gave our venture an air of legitimacy that wouldn’t otherwise be available to a retired teacher and a bunch of students.”