Doug Lockett has been called a “professional volunteer” by those aware of the time he invests in providing a free meal once a week to more than 100 people, helping run a community radio station and doing repairs for free for seniors.
A man with a sense of faith, a big heart and an infectious laugh, Lockett is known to many in northeast Wichita simply as “Brother Doug.”
Lockett, 61, said he started volunteering at age 14 when his “mom didn’t want me sitting around for the summer” in his native Kansas City. So he started teaching a photography class at a local YWCA, sharing the technical skills he’d picked up from his dad, a professional photographer. He’d picked up his people skills by accompanying his mom as she volunteered with senior citizens and other community projects. “She was an activist,” recalled Lockett.
After high school, he became an air traffic controller in the Air Force and was a DJ on the side. After he was discharged, he started a career in restaurant management and now uses those skills to run The Underground Cafe, which offers a free hot meal once a week to anyone who stops by.
Operating out of the basement of a church at 1156 N. Oliver, The Underground Cafe serves more than 100 meals every Wednesday night. It has even served as many as 300, Lockett said. Lockett, who took over running the cafe about six years ago, spends about 25 hours a week doing the ordering, prep work, cooking and coordinating the volunteers.
“I serve a decent meal since I’ve got skills,” said Lockett, followed by a laugh. He’s whipped up chicken cordon bleu, meatloaf, fried chicken and more.
Originally founded to provide a meal to homeless vets, the cafe now serves anyone regardless of income or status. “It’s more of a fellowship,” said Lockett. Patrons have included international students attending nearby Wichita State and busy moms who just want a night off from cooking.
Lockett also uses those cooking skills to serve a monthly meal to seniors living at a retirement community in northeast Wichita.
A self-employed licensed contractor, Lockett also spends about eight to 10 hours a month doing small repairs for free for seniors.
With his background as a musician and DJ, Lockett also serves as the volunteer manager for KSUN 95.9, a community radio station that runs out of the basement of the Sunflower Community Action facility at 1751 N. Ash. He coordinates the on-air talent and is on the air himself on Sunday mornings as part of the station’s Sunday Buffet lineup, which offers music of different genres..
When asked what motivates him, Lockett replied, “Just waking up every day is motivation. If you can’t do something for someone else, then why are you here?”