GREAT FOOD IS EXPENSIVE these days, and can be totally out of reach for the struggling and homeless.

That’s why I was honored to speak with Mallory Andrews recently, the new executive director of FoCo Cafe here in our choice city.

You might have heard of the donation-based restaurant model. It’s a simple concept: eat what you want, and pay according to your ability and what you believe is fair.

Jeff and Kathleen Baumgardner opened the doors of FoCo Cafe on Thanksgiving Day 2014. Many ideas stemmed from their time spent volunteering at the SAME Café in Denver. From the very beginning, they were dedicated to these powerful values:

  • Every human innately has dignity and should be treated as such.
  • Every duty, volunteer or otherwise, has value.
  • Participating in a community nourishes the soul.
  • Everyone deserves to eat nutritional food.
  • All people need a hand up at some point(s) in their lives.

This is a powerful, award winning concept – check out their eTown eChievement Award. It’s similar to other ventures across the state and country, but each tends to have their own twist to it.

As Mallory explained, the FoCo Cafe has a unique location in town, a host of groups which use the space, their own menu based on local food, and 384 volunteers contributing their time and talents in 2017.

The central location is a vital part of who they serve, ranging from city government employees to shoppers to the homeless. Even our mayor loves to stop by and enjoy the fellowship and wonderful food.

As the new executive director, though, Mallory also needs to lead the business aspects. They have a few dedicated employees, supported by hundreds of volunteers.

And yes, this is a 501(c)3 organization. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to worry about the money. In order to keep this sustainable, they have to solicit significant grant money in addition to what patrons contribute for their meals.

They’ve opened their doors to renting space for local groups, using this historical treasure of a building as a community resource and community centered space for all to utilize. They’re extending their open hours to six days a week, as they were only able to operate five days for a while.

This place exudes generosity. From the FoCo Freedge to Summer Kids’ Breakfast to the new Little Free Library, this is an amazing resource for bringing a diverse community together. While I was there, we were entertained with some excellent ’60s guitar music. Right down my alley!

If you’re in the area, by all means drop by and experience a magical lunch. If you’re further away, check out a donation-supported restaurant in your local area!