Coffee For Good Aims To Make An Impact

GREENWICH, CT — When it comes to grabbing a hot cup of coffee and a quick bite to eat, there are plenty of options to choose from in Greenwich. But one spot in town is a little more unique than all the rest.

Coffee For Good (CFG), located at 48 Maple Ave. inside the Mead House just steps away from the Second Congregational Church, is a nonprofit, high-end coffee shop that aims to provide job training in a real life setting to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The hope is that trainees develop technical and professional skills so they can find competitive employment opportunities elsewhere in the community.

"Having a job is not just a paycheck for everyone. It's your whole identity. It's just part of your life and part of your framework. I cannot express how thrilled our trainees are to come to work," said CFG Executive Director Deb Rogan.

CFG, which has partnered with Abilis, another local nonprofit that provides services and support for people with disabilities, recently held a grand opening celebration after receiving the go ahead for 100 percent seating capacity. The business soft-opened in June.

"People are enthusiastic and they're really happy," Rogan said on the reaction from the community. She noted that a lot of business has been coming from returning customers.

The self-sustaining coffee shop employs 24 trainees; each trainee works a three hour shift, three days a week. After a six to 12 month period, trainees graduate and can then transfer newly developed skills elsewhere to other cafes or hospitality and retail jobs.

Trainee David Dhein has worked at CFG since October.

"I love it," Dhein said. "Because I get paid good money."

Dhein also said he enjoys his responsibilities of cleaning the coffee bar and tables, and sometimes working at the register.

Greenwich residents and volunteers Helen Lobrano and Alan Gunzburg lead the effort in finding potential employers for graduates.

"If we operate as a true business, potential employers come in, and they can say, 'Oh, this operates as a business, they're using standard industry equipment and software, and it works for them, it should be able to work in my job, too,'" Rogan said.

Rogan noted that the first graduates from CFG are going to work at Gregory's Coffee, which recently opened on Greenwich Avenue. The Bruce Museum will also have employment opportunities after renovations are complete next year.

Suzanne Lio, the Chief Operating Officer of the Bruce Museum, recently came in and saw how the business ran. Rogan said she expressed interest in hiring for cafe, security and retail store positions.

Menu items at CFG are all locally sourced, something Rogan said was important. CFG hopes to develop relationships with vendors in the event they need employees in the future.

The coffee, which is the main attraction, comes from Path Coffee Roasters in nearby Port Chester, N.Y.

Sandwiches, salads, soups and homemade yogurt parfaits are delivered daily from Meli-Melo on Greenwich Avenue.

There are also empanadas from Jackie's Empanadas On The Go (Stamford) , and baked goods from Friends&Co (Wilton), Silvia's Kitchen (Greenwich), Leaven&Co (Bronx, N.Y.).

On any given day, patrons can be found inside the coffee shop working on their laptop, or meeting with a friend for a cup of coffee and a pastry. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still present, First Selectman Fred Camillo said the town is in a much better place than a year ago.

"We're in a very good place," he said. "I want people to go out there and enjoy themselves. I think people are doing that, but doing so in a safe manner."

Camillo also said CFG is impactful for not only the employees, but the community as a whole.

"The employees there love their job. It's a valuable skill-set they're learning, and you can just feel the warmth and the happiness when you walk in there. It's a great place beyond that to have a meeting; it's very spaced out for anyone who wants a little bit of privacy," Camillo said.

"It really is something we can be proud of."

This article originally appeared on the Greenwich Patch