We, Krysten Aldridge and Ann Cabano, hit the streets of Phoenix, almost three years ago, with our hearts full of love and our coolers full of sandwiches. We drove around in our grandma’s RV until we found people who seemed like they could use a hug, and maybe a bite to eat. This marked the beginning of our grassroots outreach movement, and within three months, we grew from a team of eight to over 500 volunteers.
We quickly began to see that outreach had very little to do with the food, drinks, and clothing. The biggest gift we give people is a place of dignity for them to share their stories. The hunger we witnessed was on a whole different level than we had ever imagined. Some of these lives, victories, and experiences go totally unnoticed, and for us, that bottle of water, ‘sammich’ or cup of coffee began to be an excuse to have a conversation.
We both come from a life in the service industry, and our favorite part about it is that awesome feeling you get when you walk into a coffee shop and the employees know your order. That recognizable solace the café down the street provides when you are still welcomed regardless of your bad day…that excitement that fills your being when total ‘strangers’ behind a counter ask you about the job interview you had, or how your birthday was. It is this type of setting that we provide on the streets. When we realized the parallels, we decided that it was time to take it to the next level.
After serving over 6,000 people on the street, and learning a whole lot about what it means to truly help people, we applied for our non-profit status so that we could extend our reach a little bit further. In January 2013, we decided that we were going to open a café and coffee shop to provide a permanent space for the magic to happen. To give those beautiful stories a more consistent place to settle, to create a loving environment filled with that unique kind of bond that only exists in a setting where the desire for food and coffee is the common ground.
There is a great divide in the work we do- ‘us’ and ‘them’. The truth is that anyone is one decision, one paycheck, or one instance from being on the other side of ‘ok’. It is our mission to create a space where this division does not exist. Feeding the heart, mind, and body of every human being with honor, integrity, and respect regardless of one’s abilty to ‘afford’ it. In order to insure everyone is served, we have set donation prices on the menu and volunteer options for people who cannot pay for their meal or coffee.
Who Benefits from this project?
Well, the most obvious answer is the folks we have helped on the streets of Phoenix. Also, our café is housed inside a healthcare facility that serves low-income families, allowing us to have constant contact with a population that is definitely ‘in need’ of alternative solutions and ideas. One of the side effects of this work is life-changing perspective. People who once judged and scoffed have written to us and called us to tell us how their lives have transformed. People who have once felt incapable of helping, all of the sudden recognize their unique contributions. Additionally, we have a coffee and kitchen skills program. This is where we train and provide placement assistance for people who have been deemed unemployable. The streets are full of untapped potential, and we have a beautiful gift in recognizing that.
How Can I Help?
Double Brewer for Coffee & Tea
Vitamix or Blendtec
Custom Logo Neon Sign
In-Kind Paper Supplies:
Hot & Cold Cups, Lids, Custom Sleeves, Sample Cups,
To-go Mugs (with our custom artwork! We have kids draw pictures of what they would feed the world and each month we will feature the art on a mug!)
We scouted a coffee purveyor, however we are open to donations. We are looking for a roaster who is local to AZ to keep the LOVe close!
We are always accepting cash donations. We have an estimated 30,000 startup budget, & every cent raised makes a difference!
Our most valuable piece! We are ALWAYS looking for other people to jump on the bus!
Connection to similar concepts:
If you know of a similar concept in your area, we would love to come check it out! We are leveraging best practices from a few like-minded businesses, and we can always use more info!
Contact Name: Krysten Aldridge
Location: Mesa, Arizona USA
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone Number: 480.209.4355