I came to the nonprofit world as a career first through volunteering. After serving as a Board member of an early childhood education organization and classroom volunteer in a hearing-impaired preschool classroom, I realized my passion for serving and decided to move to the non-profit sector after a long career in the financial services industry. I was introduced to SAME Café when I was serving on the Board of Sewall Child Development Center. One day when meeting the Executive Director for lunch, she suggested SAME Café. I met Brad and Libby, learned about the “pay what you can” model and the passion and purpose behind the SAME Café community. I was with Daniels Fund at the time as a Grants Program Officer, and encouraged Brad and Libby to consider applying for funding, as I thought the innovative and entrepreneurial model of SAME Café to meet a basic human right of access to nutritious food might be appealing. I found myself returning time and again to have lunch at SAME, and started bringing friends and family because the food was good, the atmosphere warm and welcoming and the staff passionate about their work. I was drawn not only by Brad and Libby’s passion, but by the business model. SAME Café is a social enterprise – a business that is doing good in the community. And I never cease to be amazed by how the community embraces SAME Café and how SAME is ingrained as a natural part of the community. Each time I come to SAME Café, I’m struck by the community – the diversity, the inclusiveness, the camaraderie, the natural ebb and flow of people as they move through their day together.
What began as a chance introduction grew into a friendship with Brad and Libby, and a passion about the issue of hunger in our community. The passion turned into a job with the leading statewide anti-hunger organization in Colorado, and the opportunity to partner with SAME Café in our joint work to end hunger in our state. I moved from customer to volunteer (before the kitchen renovation when washing dishes was by hand was my usual assignment)! When a position opened on the Board of Directors, I eagerly submitted my application, hoping for the opportunity to support and give back to Brad and Libby, who have given so much to the community. I was fortunate to be elected, and now have the honor of serving as Board President. I still get to SAME Café for lunch as often as possible (but not as often as I’d like) and look forward to each and every opportunity that I have to support their work and spread the word. Whether it’s introducing friends to the organization at the golf tournament, bringing colleagues to lunch at SAME or partnering in the business of ending hunger, I’m fortunate to have the same passion for SAME as I did when I first came to lunch 5 years ago.
One of my favorite memories is from the 5th anniversary celebration. Having the opportunity to interact with all the customers through the Hungry for Change plate campaign that day, and listening to them share why SAME Café was so important to them and their favorite moments was incredible. Although I’ve unfortunately forgotten his name, I still remember the toddler (and his brother Buddha) who happily sat on the patio coloring plates while his mother told me how grateful she was for SAME Café. The family was struggling financially but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. She talked about how much it meant to her as a mother to be able to know her kids would get a nutritious meal, while being treated with respect and not being judged. She was looking forward to the day in the not very distant future that her family would be able to give back to SAME Café, and help support other families to ensure their kids were fed. The women from Boulder who had seen Brad on the news that morning, and decided they had to come down and check out SAME Café – and talking with them about how they could implement the model in their community. The group of volunteers from out of state who helped in the kitchen. The students who didn’t want to share their names but happily shared their talents. The regulars who had already decorated plates, and would decorate many more over the next several months. The businessmen who were just passing by and decided to stop and join the celebration. For me, that day reinforced my passion for the organization and mission – and why SAME Café is such an important part of my community.