Giving Back: Grape Leaf Cafe

The community that Patience found in Lancaster with a newly resettled Syrian neighbor sparked an idea.

Patience Buckwalter has always been intrigued by the role of relationships in the human experience.

“I’m just naturally drawn to people. I love relationships and I think they’re so important. If I wasn’t naturally a people person this would have fizzled out but I’ve always known there was something special about community”

The community that Patience found in Lancaster with a newly resettled Syrian neighbor sparked an idea. Patience felt the warmth and reception that her neighbor always offered her. The hospitality and generosity that she poured out when Patience came to visit went deeper than the delectable tea and cookies that were served. The offering of her neighbor’s culture and customs through her cooking and hospitality was a true extension of friendship and community that resonated and radiated differently from other interactions. When Patience offered the idea to her friend about a platform where she and others in the refugee community could cook and sell their food to members of the community, the enthusiastic response became Grape Leaf Cafe. Patrons of the Cafe and Catering kitchen get to experience various cultures through the language of food. “You’re learning and taking a piece of their story through the food that we share.” The women do their cooking intuitively, using generations of recipes shared via experience, not specific measurements.

The result is an authentic outpouring of community translated into every bite. From the success of Grape Leaf Cafe, came inspiration for the Empowerment Center. Through the empowerment center Patience is able to contribute her gifting as a people person and her background as a social worker to empower and support refugees and immigrants to find community, purpose and opportunity in their new home. “Our center and our café can be in any city that has refugees and immigrants. It’s not a giant complicated formula, it’s just integrating and helping people feel a part of the community.”

Learn more about Grape Leaf Cafe at

Open May–September 30 West James Street, Lancaster Grape Leaf also provides catering year-round.

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