Published on December 3rd, 2012 | by Michael Gates0
PHOTOS: Service Learning Project Brings Music to Raw Vegan Café
Michael Gates, Asst. Online Editor
Dave Whitaker, Contributor
Pictured above by Michael Gates and Dave Whitaker: Students from a Lewis music class chose to raise awareness about Raw
Vegan Café in Lockport.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the creatively alternative menu at Raw Vegan Café in Lockport was complemented by a creatively raw musical event put together by a group of students from a Lewis music class.
As the restaurant’s early evening patrons dined on homemade veggie wraps and sipped smoothies, singer-songwriter Christian Gonzalez strummed his guitar and belted out a handful of cover songs, and even one original. Lewis’ own Josh Lucas, a multi-instrumentalist who is working on his first CD, soon followed Gonzalez on the makeshift stage at the back of the room.
The event was the result of a service learning project for a music class taught by Dr. Michael McFerron. It’s another example of how service learning and its real-world ingredients can enhance a course curriculum.
Jeff Wegrzyn, a sophomore and music major in McFerron’s class, worked with four other classmates to tie up the details in the weeks before the Nov. 20 gathering. Arielle Bredy, Jerry Kane and Bryan Commisso rounded out the rest of the student organizing team.
“Our assignment was to make it a fundraiser that involved music in some way,” Wegrzyn said. “We started by thinking about where to have it and musical performers we could ask to play.”
The Raw Vegan Café, a restaurant at 928 S. State St., has quickly become known for its plant-based entrées, volunteer waiters and nonprofit mission. Any profits support the Thanks Jordan Foundation and Project Hopeful, nonprofit organizations that promote the adoption of children with HIV.
“I think the students liked the charity aspect and the green aspect of this place,” said McFerron. “It is the perfect spot to hold the event, and the students handled it all.”
For his students, the establishment was not simply the setting, but the centerpiece. While they accepted donations for the foundation at the event, their ultimate aim was to raise awareness about the café.
“We made fliers and tried to spread the word about our event so more people could learn about this restaurant and what it’s all about,” said Bredy, a sophomore.
Laurie Sloan-Fisher founded the nonprofit restaurant after committing to a vegan and raw food diet. Diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 20s, she grew skeptical of the traditional treatments and wanted to share with others her faith in an organic approach to food.
“Most people who come in already know about our food and our charitable mission,” Sloan-Fisher said. “But our volunteer staff members also fill people in if they are not familiar with it.”
According to Sloan-Fisher, an increasing number of Lewis students have visited the Vegan Café for a meal. Besides its distinct menu, the restaurant has an artistic touch and a laid-back feel that appeals to young and old alike.
“Any time Lewis students want to support us, or hold an event here for another cause, we’re thrilled to do it,” Sloan-Fisher said. “We consider Lewis to be part of our community.”