Coffees On supports local nonprofit groups this year

Late Christmas Eve, Coffee’s On owners Adam Reid and Maria Mitu were tidying up their shop in Gresham Town Fair when they noticed a man outside on the sidewalk, in tattered clothes, crying uncontrollably.

Reid spoke with the man, learned he and his family were homeless and offered to help the stranger find local social service information on his computer.

As he waited for the computer to boot, Reid discovered the man had disappeared.

“Maria and I grabbed some money, hopped in the car and drove around trying to find the guy,” Reid said. “We never did. But if we’d known where to refer him right away, we could have helped him. It bothered us all night and showed us how much we needed to help.”

The experience wasn’t so much a catalyst to do something about social issues, but more like an eye-opener that community awareness of available local resources is widely unknown.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Adam Reid and Maria Mitu, owners of Coffee's On in Gresham Town Fair, have introduced the Twelve Months of Giving, a program designed to acquaint the public with local social service resources via donations and community education.

Reid and Mitu decided to change that and launched The Twelve Months of Giving program in early January, by committing support to a different local nonprofit organization each month this year. They kicked off the project by asking customers to fill large burlap bags normally used for coffee beans with clothing, blankets and food. In less than a month, Coffee’s On staff and patrons donated more than 60 stuffed bags to St. Henry Catholic Church’s homeless day shelter.

The concept of reaching out to local nonprofit groups was already brewing in early December, Mitu said, to coincide with the public’s traditional generosity with holiday giving. But they also recognized that the needs extend beyond just the holidays.

Reid and Mitu earned a reputation for involving their customers in the direction of Coffee’s On after they purchased the failing shop in February 2011. They worked hard to re-establish the business’ place in the community and sought feedback from customers in decisions related to new coffee drinks and menu items.

So when it came to choosing which agencies to support, the couple knew whom to ask.

“We thought, ‘Let’s capture 12 of the top nonprofits from our customers,’” Mitu said. “What we discovered was that most people didn’t know what organizations are in the community helping people. This is a great way to let Gresham know who’s out there.”

The couple understands the difficulties nonprofits have gaining visibility within the community, having been involved in forming their own in the past. Reid helped form a music center in Portland for low-income youth in 1999, and in 2004 he founded a charter high school for business and entrepreneur students. Consequently, it came as no surprise that customers with longtime roots in the area were unaware of organizations quietly serving the community on next to nothing.

“The biggest problem nonprofits have is awareness — letting the community know they’re here,” Reid said. “The other problem is knowing what they do and how to help. What we want to see happen is sitting down with all the nonprofits and find out who they serve. Then find out what they need. We’re a community coffee shop, but we want to know how we can use our resource to help them.”

The Twelve Months of Giving is designed to help nonprofit groups at their time of greatest need. For example: The 60 burlap bags donated to the day shelter at St. Henry arrived during the coldest time of year, providing hats, blankets and clothing to those who might be sleeping on the streets. Likewise, a school supply drive for the Gresham-Barlow Foundation is tentatively planned for August and September.

But part of the mission for the Twelve Months of Giving is to also educate the public on what the organization does and the ways to help beyond donating goods or money. Reid and Mitu have included their staff in the program’s execution, making sure they are versed in the featured organization’s needs and purpose and are able to answer customers’ questions.

“They are our ambassadors,” Mitu said. “They have been involved in helping to plan community events where people can learn about volunteer opportunities and the services these nonprofits offer. Not everybody is comfortable donating money, but they might like to volunteer.

“What will be awesome in a year is to ask our customers again — ‘What is your favorite nonprofit?’ And have them tell us a whole list of them.”

How to help

Who: Coffee’s On, The Twelve Months of Giving

Where: 600 N.W. Eastman Parkway, Gresham

What: Customers and the public can help a different local nonprofit organization each month and learn about the community services they provide. During February, Coffee’s On is accepting donations of clean blankets, toys and pet food to help the Multnomah County Animal Shelter in Troutdale care for its animals.

For more information, call 50-669-6868.

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