Newman University is proud to be a title sponsor of The Difference Makers for Wichita awards along with Emprise Bank and The Wichita Eagle/Kansas.com.
The awards, created in 2016, recognize individuals and organizations making a positive difference and celebrate their contributions, value and positive influence on improving the greater Wichita community.
The Ivonne Goldstein Community Volunteer Award, presented by BKD CPAs and Advisors and named for the late Ivonne Goldstein who served on the boards of or raised money for more than 50 Wichita organizations, is presented to an individual who through outstanding volunteer community service and commitment is making a measurable difference.
Douglas Lockett, the 2019 recipient, is a U.S. Air Force veteran operating The Underground Café, which serves food and fellowship every Wednesday evening from the basement of a church building.
Lockett said the first job he can remember having was a volunteer position. He credits his mom for nudging him in that direction because he was too young to get a job and she didn’t want him just “sitting around during the summertime doing nothing and getting into trouble.”
That experience sparked a volunteering mindset in Lockett that would continue well into his future.
“(The Underground Café) started for military veterans just to come down and have a meal, someplace to get some information and just have a little camaraderie in a sense,” he explained.
Lockett took over in 2013 and has been cooking up dinners ever since.
He said the food is donated from a variety of places and he’s never quite sure what he’ll have on hand to cook for his community members. He said that’s when his creative side gets to appear.
“It’s fun for me. I get to go into my zone a little bit and I play my music. I enjoy doing it.”
He said the organization is there for anyone who is in need of a meal — it’s not just for veterans anymore. Lockett added that even children have walked over for a meal now and then.
Lockett said he certainly can’t do it alone. “I couldn’t do this without the volunteers that come in.”
Those volunteers, he said, are the heart of the cafe. From teenagers to adults, volunteers come to help with cooking, cleaning and more.
Working at the Underground Cafe isn’t the only volunteer time he puts in for his community. Lockett is also the volunteer station manager for KSUN 95.9, a radio station providing information and entertainment for the underserved in Wichita, Kansas.
Locket said knowing he is spreading love in the community and encouraging others to do the same is what drives him to keep doing what he’s doing.
“The project started for veterans,” explained Lockett. “And we wanted to take the stigma out of it … ‘Anybody from Cadillac to walk-up’ is our motto.”
Lockett added, “It’s a necessity what we do. A lot of people (ask), ‘Why do you do it?’ And I just say, ‘I do it out of love for people because somebody came along before I did and did something for me.”