Coffee is so much more than a drink. Coffee is an experience. Some see it as the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak, with how it brings people together. Just think about how many ideas, inventions, projects were completed while sitting around with a group of people who were brainstorming over a cup of coffee. That’s the beauty of it and it’s something we’ve seen many of the new shops here in NYC strive for.
Reconnect cafe is no exception. Here, they are using the power of coffee to bring their community together in a unique and very admirable way. We realized very quickly that Reconnect Cafe was no ordinary shop. It was at this point where we decided we had to go in and feature a story on this.[pextestim pex_attr_set=”default” pex_attr_autoplay=”false”][/pextestim]
A small, modest shop located in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn is home to a non-profit organization with an honorable cause. That organization is known as Project Reconnect. Project Reconnect reaches out to the young people in their communities and provides them with a sense of worth by offering them jobs. They refer to their plan as the 5/5/50/500 plan. Within the next 5 years they are looking to grow 5 new businesses, partner with 50 existing businesses in the area, and engage 500 young people in the process.
One of the 5 businesses they decided to start was a local coffee shop which is now known as ReConnect Cafe. A cafe whose employees are neighborhood youth serving everything from baked goods, to sandwiches, to great cups of coffee.
We got to catch up with Father Jim, who is one of the organizers and mentors to these young people. I was able to have a nice conversation with Father Jim, who has invested his time and energy into the Bed-Stuy area’s youth. Having grown up in Brooklyn, we spoke about the days where Brooklyn was very different. A lot of the areas were some you didn’t want to walk through back then. Bed-Stuy was one of those areas. In speaking with him and seeing him interact with the young people in the shop, you learned very quickly that he is someone who is looked up to.
Father Jim mentioned something to me that really hit home. One of the goals of this organization is to connect these youth with the neighborhood in ways that were not available to them otherwise. With the area changing so much, the question became how do we bridge the gap between the youth from this area and the new wave of professionals moving in? COFFEE! What better way to get a community of people together at a table or in a room than a coffee shop?
That idea seems to be paying off too. As Melissa and I were there shooting, we were very impressed by the steady flow of foot traffic coming through this shop. People from all walks of life coming in to enjoy some good coffee or tea. The gentlemen behind the counter were engaging and seemed to be very happy to have the opportunity to work and learn.
One of these talented employees who was more than happy to chat about his experience with this organization was Edwin. Edwin is a recent High School graduate who was accepted into a local college here in Brooklyn. Congrats Edwin! Edwin has been a part of this organization since before they even opened the cafe. Having spoken to him for a short time, one thing was clear about him. He was talented. One of those people who you can tell will be successful at anything he puts his mind to.
A perfect example of this is his barista skills. Although he’s not necessarily striving to be a career barista, he acknowledges that its something he wouldn’t normally do but it’s “different” and has really helped him to learn the value in responsibility and hard work. I ordered a cappuccino from him since he said it was his favorite drink to make. Not only was it beautifully made, but it also tasted delicious.
What I admire about Father Jim and the Reconnect organization is that instead of complaining, or giving up, they saw an opportunity and are doing something. The best part of it is that it seems to be working as evident with the cafe. Some might just see this as just another coffee shop that opened up on Brooklyn. It’s anything but that. This is a perfect example of how a simple idea can create real change. Its also an example of how coffee can really be used as a tool to bring communities together. It’s been said before, but here it is in action! This is one story that is just as refreshing as the coffee itself!
…..And as a Brooklyn boy myself, I couldn’t resist!