CAFE 180

Food Day: Taking a Total 180

Posted by Sarah Lesyinski & Alyssa Viars We all know how important good food is. Good food nurtures the body, is produced in a way that fosters the wellbeing of farm workers, food workers, animals, and the environment, and well… it tastes good! But good food is also a catalyst for connecting those who share in its production, preparation, and consumption.  Good food is a language everyone understands. It is what brings community to the Farmers Market or urban garden, family to the dinner table, and makes friends of perfect strangers. Someone once asked me if I thought food could change the world.  I said, “Yes, of course! If it can’t, then I’m not sure what will.” I couldn’t explain my confidence in food’s magical powers or give an example of how it had changed the world, but I believed it.  This story from Sarah Lesyinski, the Executive Director of CAFE 180 in Englewood, CO puts that belief into words. It is the story of how good food and good people can change a life.  “Ella Dorn (aka Ellie Mae) is a regular at CAFE 180. Ellie Mae started frequenting the cafe about a year and a half ago. We first met Ellie on the cafe porch.  She was sitting outside and had very little to say. After a few weeks of seeing Ellie and having short conversations, we realized her addiction to alcohol.  For the few months Ellie would show up daily, work for a meal, and then leave almost as quickly as she came in.  It was the goal of the cafe staff to break that barrier, and slowly we began to pursue a relationship with her.  We would ask her to help with dishes and then go back and do dishes with her and try to strike up a conversation. Slowly we found out her story.  Her husband had died 3 years prior, she had just been evicted and was living on a nearby river, she had 7 children and 20 grandchildren, and she LOVES clothes. Ellie Mae quickly became a cafe favorite! A year later, Ellie has a part time job (as the dishwasher at the cafe), has found a place to live, and is 5 months sober! We are so proud of the path that our friend is on.  Ellie says, ‘My life has taken a total 180, just like the cafe says. I have a new way of looking at life and a new path to walk down.’” Sarah Lesyinski is the Executive Director of CAFE 180 in Englewood, Colorado.