Coffee shop workers almost all current, former foster children

- They say coffee is good for you but the coffee shop you’re about to see DOES good.

Bill Anderson visited a coffee shop that employs foster children in need of support and training, For Goodness Sake.

It’s necessary because the number of foster kids aging out of the system are staggering. Twenty percent will end up homeless, 25 percent incarcerated, but one coffee shop in Brewerytown is doing its best to help.

“I took a trip to South Africa and while I was there, I met a young man who was 16 when I met him, 14 when he left his family in Zimbabwe, and 18 when he was no longer eligible to receive all of the support services he was receiving when we met,” Lisa Miccolis remembers.

It was a casual meeting for her, but hearing the young man’s situation made a lasting impact.

“School, housing, food, clothes, pretty much basic needs, pretty crucial. At 18, it all went away,” she explained.

Bill learned Lisa isn’t the type of person who could just walk away and forget about the encounter, so when she got back to the states she came up with the idea for The Monkey & the Elephant Coffee Shop, employing almost exclusively former or current foster children.

“They work at the café, learn how to make coffee, do customer service, cash-handling,” Lisa said. “We do all of our baking in house so they learn how to bake.”

But she noted the actual day-to-day job skills are just a part of the things they work on.

“Your personal elevator pitch, how you introduce yourself to somebody, budgeting.”

The point being that not only will the folks at The Monkey & the Elephant have a job and learn useful skills, but they also get the feeling of community that empowers them -- something 19-year-old Davida told Bill is lacking in some foster homes.

“Its kinda messed up how people just don’t care about what’s going on in the kid’s life, and how they act the way they act because of what they’ve been through, and don’t even try to help, they just want the check,” Davida said. 

But the sense of family at The Monkey & the Elephant has made her feel she has more support than she ever imagined.

“When I started working here, I connected with a lot of people because we had so many similarities,” Davida told Bill. “I’m the youngest one here so they help me and give me a handle on how I can deal with certain situations.”

Seeing the relationships between Lisa and the team at The Monkey & the Elephant helped reinforce that the one conversation she had many years ago with a young man in South Africa changed her life and those around her, with no regrets.

“I’m not just gonna turn a blind eye and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll just go have my cushy job over here and not think about the fact that there are people who could use a hand up, and there’s a great opportunity to be a part of that.’”

It’s an opportunity we can also share in.

Be a customer, come into our shop, eat our baked goods, make a donation,” Lisa asked. “We are wholly a nonprofit so all of the money we make from the café goes into supporting the organizational structure.”

Bill admits it’s probably an overused term but this coffee shop has figured out a way to well in business while doing good for society. They’re supporting young people, for goodness sake.

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