This time every year, no matter the weather, about a thousand people show up for a very early breakfast at the Ramada Inn in downtown Topeka.
The occasion is the annual Kansas Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by Topeka Fellowship, Inc. Statewide leaders in government, business, education and industry will be on hand as usual as the program begins at about 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18th, for the 54th celebration of the annual event. As several buffet lines open for serving at 6:00 a.m., the banquet hall will be filled with Kansans from all walks of life.
This year’s featured speaker will be Barry Feaker, who will join a long list of distinguished state-wide and nationally known leaders who have shared their vision and wisdom at past Prayer Breakfasts. Feaker is Executive Director of Topeka Rescue Mission and a lifelong Topeka resident. After graduating from Topeka West High School, he attended Coffeyville Community College and Kansas State University before graduating from Washburn University, where he also received an honorary doctorate degree for public service.
Feaker has also served for seven years as the President of the Topeka/Shawnee County Safe Streets Coalition to help Topeka become one of the Safest Capital Cities in America. He has also been involved in various local and state organizations and initiatives including the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Topeka City of Character, Shawnee County Department of Corrections Public Relations Board, Topeka/Shawnee County Heartland Vision Steering Committee, Topeka/Shawnee County Homeless Task Force, Prevention and Recovery Service Board, and Washburn University School of Nursing Advisory Committee.
Since 1986, Feaker has directed his attention toward the homeless and impoverished of the Topeka area in his position as Executive Director of the Topeka Rescue Mission. During this time he has continued to broaden public awareness of the needs of the poor and homeless in the community while providing continual oversight for the daily operations of the Mission.
Feaker has been successful in expanding the Topeka Rescue Mission from approximately 50 beds when he first began, to 286 beds for homeless men, women and children currently. In 1990-1991, he directed the Mission to the completion of a $1.8 million shelter for the homeless. In 1999-2000, he again directed a $2 million building project, resulting in a new, two-story shelter for homeless women and families. Both projects were completed without the aid of professional fundraisers or government funds. Currently, he is overseeing a $12 million expansion project to create additional shelter space for women, children and families. This expansion will also expand dining capacity for the hungry, provide educational space for adults and children, and include a new medical clinic.
The Mission currently houses the following ministries: a homeless shelter for men; a homeless shelter for women and families; a long-term shelter program (Servants in Training); a kitchen which provides meals to guests as well as individuals from the community; a Distribution Center which provides food, clothing, furniture and household items to people in need; an outreach program targeted at reaching individuals who are unsheltered and homeless (Operation Street Reach); programs which establish community collaborations for health, mental health and educational opportunities for homeless individuals; and a Thrift Store.
Newer Topeka Rescue Mission initiatives include: NET Reach (Neighborhood Empowerment and Transformation) which was developed to strengthen impoverished neighborhoods with the goal of helping to bring empowerment and transformation by addressing the issues of homelessness, hunger, poverty, community health and safety; and the Doxazo Missions Training Institute (currently under development) to help individuals and families gain necessary tools for missionary training locally, nationally and internationally.
In calendar year 2013, the Mission sheltered 2,032 unduplicated individuals including 1,088 men, 576 women, and 368 children. The Mission also provided 538,296 meals to homeless and hungry individuals in Topeka and assisted 7,682 households in obtaining furniture, appliances and other household items. In addition, there were 1,648 occurrences of medical help which took place.
Feaker is married and has two grown daughters and one grandson. He recently released his first book, “In Darkness, a Light Still Shines,” sharing stories of hope based on his experiences at the Mission.
In addition to Feaker, the audience will hear from a wide array of Kansas leaders, as always. Festivities will wrap up by 8 a.m., just in time for most folks to get to work on time.
The Kansas Prayer Breakfast is held in March each year, and is patterned after the National Prayer Breakfast, which began in 1953 in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Kansas Senator Frank Carlson and President Dwight Eisenhower. The Kansas version began in 1962 with the aid and encouragement of Governor John Anderson. Carlson was the first keynote speaker.
Tickets for the breakfast are $18.00 per person or $180.00 for a reserved table of ten. For reservations call 234-6204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found at www.kansasprayerbreakfast.net, or by calling 785-234-6204.