I never met Kate Thomas, but I do know that she had a lasting impact on many people’s lives.
I was recently reminded of that at the sixth anniversary of Kate’s Café, a monthly dinner for LGBT seniors and friends that Thomas founded in 2010.
Roughly 60 guests attended the celebration. Among them was Bob Kingston-Parrott, a Boston resident who remembered Thomas’ tireless dedication to the café and serving LGBT older adults.
“The program is so wonderful, and Kate got to see it flourish,” said Kingston-Parrott. “She gave of herself to make it better for us.”
Thomas, then an Elder Care Advisor at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES), started the dinner as Cadbury Café in 2010. It has grown exponentially since then, moving from Cadbury Commons to the Ryles Jazz Club. Guests come from all over Boston and beyond to socialize and partake in the delicious food.
Wilbur Kingston-Parrott first heard about Kate’s Café when he moved to Boston with his partner three years ago. They had joined the Boston Prime Timers social group, and were soon regulars.
“You go for the camaraderie,” Wilbur said. “There are so many different kinds of people. No matter who you are, you can always find someone to be friendly with.”
Jack Murphy was one of the guests who saw the café grow over time. He volunteered for years at Café Emmanuel, an LGBT meal site in Jamaica Plain. That was where he first met Thomas.
“I remember Kate coming in. She introduced herself and saw what we were doing… the next thing I know, about a year later, Cadbury Café opened,” said Murphy. “I feel so good about the whole thing, because we started the Café Emmanuel meal years ago in Boston, and [LGBT cafes] mushroomed to all these different places.”
The Kate’s Cafe anniversary was during LGBT Pride Month, but it also came on the heels of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Melissa Bryant, who now coordinates Kate’s Café, said it provided an important venue for people to come together after the tragedy.
“It was important for them to be there, to be with their friends, to support each other,” said Bryant, who is also an Elder Care Advisor at SCES.
Café guests filled posters dedicated to those affected by the shootings with heartfelt words and messages of hope. Bryant plans to send the posters to advocacy organizations in Orlando.
It was all in keeping with the warm environment that Kate Thomas wanted to foster, and it speaks to the support and caring that the tight-knit community provides to one another. Thomas passed away in 2014, and the café was renamed in her honor.
“You can sense the closeness people felt with Kate,” said Bryant. “She’s touched their lives personally, and they all bring that to the dinner. Her legacy and presence can be felt there – it’s still very much alive.”
By Colleen Morrissey, a resource specialist at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services. A full listing of LGBT resources is available on the SCES website.