Royal Neighbors of America, a Rock Island-based fraternal benefit society, will present Quad Cities pastor Rev. Laura Evans Mahn with a Nation of Neighbors empowerment award and $10,000 grant for Rock Island’s nonprofit NEST Café (Nourish Everyone Sustainably Together).

The Rev. Laura Mahn is founder and executive director of NEST Cafe Quad Cities in downtown Rock Island.

The award and grant to be presented to Rev. Mahn on Sept. 8 is one of 10 Royal Neighbors will present nationwide this fall.

A membership organization with 250,000 members nationwide, Royal Neighbors offers life insurance and annuity products and is driven by its mission of supporting women and serving communities, according to a company release Thursday. Royal Neighbors’ signature women’s empowerment program, Nation of Neighbors, recognizes and supports women who work to empower women and girls through a nonprofit, business, or program.

NEST Cafe is a healthy, pay-what-you-can restaurant at 1524 4th Ave., Rock Island.

The Rev. Mahn is founder and executive director of NEST Café, a nonprofit, pay-what-you-can restaurant at 1524 4th Ave., Rock Island. NEST Café is the first of its kind in the area and has a mission to the community by providing delicious, sustainably sourced food to all who enter, regardless of the size of their means, the RNA release says.

Royal Neighbors member Connie Avey nominated Rev. Mahn for the empowerment award and grant.

“Laura and her team understand the difference a delicious, nutrient-dense meal can make when someone is able to eat it with dignity,” Avey said. “Women don’t have to experience the stigma of going to a ‘free meal.’ Children are able to witness their mothers paying for an amazing meal, without having to know that they may have paid less than someone else.”

NEST uses volunteers from across the economic spectrum.

“At any given time, there can be someone volunteering in exchange for a meal next to someone volunteering for community service hours, next to someone doing so because their job encourages civic engagement which builds relationships and opportunities,” added Avey.

Loaded Baked Potato Bar with NEST Toppings at NEST Cafe.

“Through many life experiences, I’ve witnessed the cycle of people struggling financially having to eat highly processed food that causes negative health effects,” Mahn said in the release. “I’ve also been troubled by the traditional response to feeding people who are hungry, which creates a barrier between those who are being served and those who are serving.

“I wanted to create a place where everyone eats food that serves their bodies the way food is supposed to and where no one necessarily knows who is in need and who is there for other reasons.”

Royal Neighbors Director of Philanthropy Amy Jones will present the award and grant to Mahn on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Amy Jones is director of philanthropy for Rock Island-based Royal Neighbors of America.

“The Rev. Mahn has taken solving food insecurity to the next level,” Jones said. “She has created a ripple effect by providing her customers and volunteers a place to not only nourish their bodies, but to build relationships, learn skills, and create new opportunities through volunteerism. The Rev. Mahn is a servant to her community solving an immediate problem and making a lasting impact, and she truly exemplifies the Royal Neighbors mission to empower women and support communities.”

The Nation of Neighbors grant will allow Rev. Mahn and NEST Café to purchase additional kitchen equipment, pay for additional volunteers and employees to receive serve-safe certification, and launch community cooking classes.

To date, Royal Neighbors has awarded more than $2.5 million in Nation of Neighbors grants nationwide. For more information on Nation of Neighbors, click HERE.