To say Richard Sparks is an accomplished musician is a bit of an understatement. He played violin in the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra. He received a degree in musical composition from the University of Colorado Boulder and went to grad school at Northwestern. He toured the country playing fiddle for the bluegrass band Pilgrim’s Progress, and jammed with Doug Kershaw
(the Ragin’ Cajun himself) and Gregg Allman
(perhaps you know his brothers?). He even wrote the sound score for the PBS satirical variety show, The Great American Dream Machine
. These days, Richard’s life moves at a different pace. Arthritis forced him to retire his fiddle in 2005, but he still surrounds himself with music, taking in concerts and listening every night to his vast, meticulously maintained vinyl collection. For the past few months, Richard has taken the bus from his home in Boulder to spend nearly every morning volunteering at CAFE 180. And his presence has been music to our ears. “Richard, with his kind face and lively eyes, is a volunteer we rely on to help create an atmosphere of joy and gratitude which is characteristic of CAFE 180″, said Catherine Matthews, founder of CAFE 180. “Finding Cafe 180 has been a real windfall for me,” explains Richard, who at age 74 is on a fixed income. “I tell my friends that this is THE place. The people are wonderful and the food is world class. The quality and freshness is beyond compare.” Richard says the entire menu is great, but he does admit he has his favorites: the french dip, veggie pizza, and Mediterranean salad top his list. For soup, it’s a tie. “It’s hard to choose between the potato soup and the cheese and broccoli,” said Richard. As a volunteer, Richard has done a little bit of everything. He has washed dishes, wrapped silverware, swept the floor, washed windows, and helped serve. He’s even gotten to know a few other volunteers, like Mark, who has some physical limitations. “He’s here almost every day too, so I help him out. We all help each other out.” According to Richard, the food alone would keep him coming back. But he also raves about those he’s met at CAFE 180. “I feel so enriched for having met so many wonderful people,” says Richard. “Listening to music, meeting good people, eating great food–that’s what life is all about.” Richard, we couldn’t agree more. Thanks for spending your time with us.