Serving up hope and acceptance
by Lilianne Fuller
Something very good is happening in downtown Langley. Kalma Family Restaurant is an ordinary diner that’s been around for a long time. This popular fixture, soon to be known as Brogan’s Diner, is being transformed. At the same time, it’s transforming lives and giving people hope.
Self-described “addicts in recovery,” wife and husband team, Shannon Brogan and Keith Smythe consider themselves blessed by the love they received from their church, their friends and God. So, seven years ago, when they became involved in the business which includes a thrift store, a deli, and the restaurant, a dream was born.
The couple had come out of many years of drug addiction and they wanted to help others and make a difference in people’s lives. “We’re free and happy and loving God, so now we want to give back in a way that people will really get the love and help they need. Just like we did. We really love the people of Langley. This is who we are, and we simply want to spread the love,” explains Brogan.
When Shannon’s dad, Michael John Brogan, passed away 14 months ago, the couple took over ownership of the business. That was when they were able to move forward with their dream of building a community to shine the love of God in downtown Langley. The name – Brogan’s Diner – is a misnomer. This place serves up far more than just food for the stomach. Throughout the week, Brogan’s Dinner also serves food for the soul. It started out with small community dinners offered for free. Once a month, everyone was invited. Seniors, the homeless, the lonely, and anyone in search of good food, good conversation and fellowship. That was in March 2017 and since then the numbers have been going up. At Christmas time, following a news report on Global TV, 250 people showed up to enjoy a Christmas feast. In April, there were 300 people in attendance.
When the couple first started putting on the dinners, it was completely at their own expense. That’s changed thanks to Jessica Davis, a local university student and mother of three. Through her efforts, not one but two local businesses stepped up to donate enough turkeys and all the fixings for the April dinner to feed everyone. In addition, there was enough left over for guests to take home a sandwich or two.
Davis became involved with the monthly dinners after a chance meeting with Shannon Brogan. “It was through my very first conversation with Shannon that I learned about Brogan’s Diner’s social initiative and her heart for building and investing in the local Langley community,” she says. After volunteering with her children at the March dinner, Davis asked Brogan how the dinners were being funded. “I approached Shannon to enquire as to how the dinners were being financed. Upon learning that the dinners were financed out-of-pocket, I was moved to make a commitment to find community support,” she says. She approached local businesses and found a warm welcome. On April 7, Real Canadian Superstore donated 20 turkeys for the monthly dinner and store manager, Joe Viana, his son and four of his staff turned up to serve. As well, Langley Township Mayor, Jack Froese was there and through his family farm, J. D. Farms Specialty Turkey Store & Bistro donated several turkeys for the meal. A committed volunteer, Davis has made it her goal to seek out more sponsors for the remaining months of 2018 and beyond.
Monthly dinners aren’t the only thing on the agenda at Brogan’s Diner. Nightly, there are different programs that are always uplifting, encouraging and fun. Tuesday evenings are coined Friendship Night and soon will include movies. “There are such great movies coming out, with excellent messages,” says Brogan. Worship and Fellowship are on the menu on Wednesday nights from 7 until 9.
Music is a big part of the diner as well. There’s a stage at the back of the restaurant and on Thursday nights the diner hosts an open mic and jam session. On Fridays and Sundays nights, people are invited to do karaoke.
Shannon and Keith have been joined by Life Coach Brenda Weidner. She is on hand to coordinate Freedom Sessions on Monday nights. Freedom Sessions are a 20-week, intensive healing-discipleship journey that deals with real issues such as broken marriages, abuse, depression, anger, fear and addiction.
In a society that treats the marginalized as disposable people, Shannon Brogan and Keith Smythe think differently. They value the people who come through their door. Brogan tells the story of a young man named Ty. “He came through the doors last October, broken, confused and in his drug addiction. We embraced him like family and provided him with a job, a home, a singing stage at the diner, and most of all, a family that loves him unconditionally,” she says. Ty now works a four hour shift every Sunday. No longer homeless, he is working on becoming clean and sober. And that is very good.