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The hours and menu are somewhat limited, the staff is small, and opening night didn't draw much of a crowd, but we think the Brass Hat Cafe in Westminster is going to do just fine anyway. The cafe is actually a soup kitchen, an effort by the Salvation Army of Carroll County, that is set up more like a traditional restaurant and staffed by volunteers.

Open 4:30 to 6 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Brass Hat Cafe is a fresh approach to the soup kitchen you may typically think of in the basement of a church building, with the idea behind it being that needing a meal doesn't mean you are not worthy of dignity and respect, said Nina Christian, the service unit manager at the Carroll Salvation Army and, at present, the Brass Hat Cafe's chef.

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Tables are set up inside the cafe, located at the Salvation Army at 300 Hahn Road in Westminster, complete with cloth place mats and candles. "The way we would like to set it up is the same way as if you are going to a restaurant," Christian told us, "you have hosts, you have people that will be your server."

The patrons were few at Monday evening's grand opening of the Brass Hat Cafe in Westminster. But then, what restaurant's opening night ever goes exactly acco

In order to do this, the Salvation Army and the cafe need volunteers — and plenty of them. In particular, the cafe needs licensed cooks or people with some type of training to work in a kitchen. The Salvation Army will also take teenagers who need service learning hours or anyone else who is willing to help to be hosts, servers and greeters, but who might not have experience in the kitchen.

Our experience tells us there will be plenty of people willing to answer the call.

While the Brass Hat Cafe is primarily to serve homeless individuals, much like many other food pantry and soup kitchen services in Carroll County, it is open to anyone who needs a meal, regardless of the circumstances.

That's more people than most realize. More than 6 percent of Carroll residents, or about 10,550 individuals, are food insecure, according to the latest data available from the Feeding America network, the country's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Food insecurity refers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's measure of the lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all members of the household, and limited availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

Several nonprofit organizations — Carroll County Food Sunday, Northeast Social Action Program (NESAP), The Shepherd's Staff and a litany of churches and faith-based groups — work to make sure food and hot meals are available to those in need year-round, without judgment.

The Salvation Army's Brass Hat Cafe takes that a step further, and is a welcome addition to the community.



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