Taking Community Support to the Coffee Shop

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In 2015, Victoria Kidd opened The Hideaway Cafe in the Old Town neighborhood of Winchester, a town of about 28,000 in northern Virginia. At the time, the region lacked openly affirming gathering spots for LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

Recognizing the need for a safe space and organizing hub, the Hideaway emerged as a driving force for positive change within the community. As the “community cafe,” a moniker Kidd says many have called the space, The Hideaway constantly serves as host for fundraisers and events. From throwing performances to organizing food drives and gathering donations for nonprofits, Kidd channels a significant portion of Hideaway’s resources away from the business of operating the shop and into supporting charitable initiatives that enrich the neighborhood. “We are never not fundraising,” Kidd says. 

Planning, executing, and promoting events and organizing charitable initiatives in a cafe involves substantial work. Yet, for Kidd and other cafes like hers—places that have become unofficial community gathering spots—philanthropy has become a cornerstone of the business. It’s a way to build trust, showcase values, and foster a lasting sense of community that keeps customers returning for more.

Planting Seeds of Goodwill

In an industry where competition is fierce, coffee shops stand out when they embrace their role as inclusive community gathering spaces. Kidd believes this sets small, independent cafes apart from corporate giants. “When people [have guests] come to visit, they’re not going to the chain store down the street. People are taking them to the local shop for lunch that sponsored their little league team.”

Coffee shops can forge deeper connections with their customers when they demonstrate care for the community and show that their favorite local cafe supports causes aligned with their values and concerns. “It’s good for business, good for people who work for you, and it’s good for you,” Kidd says.

In 2021, Hideaway Cafe won the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s LGBTQ-Owned Business Achievement Award and has garnered acclaim for its commitment to supporting various causes. Notably, they actively contribute to organizations such as the Highland Food PantryDakota’s Dream, which assists abandoned and homeless animals in the region, and World Central Kitchen, which provides nourishment to children and families displaced by the war in Ukraine.

Alleah Webb, the owner of Drifter Coffee in Ferndale, Michigan, emphasizes the importance of embracing the role of a catalyst for change. “People know where our values are,” she says. “They want to know their money is going to people who genuinely care about the things they care about.” Drifter Coffee thrives on the values of respect for all humans, an understanding of intersectionality, and tasty, locally-sourced coffee. These values are showcased through their websiteactive social media presence, and community events that aim to amplify marginalized voices.

At Drifter Coffee, spreading goodwill starts with actively engaging with the community through weekly events that offer something for everyone. Local music performances, vendor pop-ups showcasing makers and the vintage community, yard sales, and drag shows attract artists and community members alike. Additionally, all funds collected from regular yoga classes hosted at the shop are donated to support abortion access in Michigan. “Over the past four years, we’ve constantly shared community fundraisers and events from organizations we deeply care about—LGBTQ rights, the environment, and supporting different communities,” Webb says.

Making Values Heard

Drifter Coffee also works to communicate its values via social media. “We don’t just post about events in the community,” Webb says. “When something important happens, we always make sure we make a statement about it.” From unionization efforts at the Ferndale library to causes like the Black Lives Matter movement, the cafe’s social media presence serves as a catalyst for supporting local and national initiatives.

When people [have guests] come to visit, they’re not going to the chain store down the street. People are taking them to the local shop for lunch that sponsored their little league team. Victoria Kidd, The Hideaway Cafe

“We make sure we’re reposting from different organizations in the community that we really care about,” emphasizes Webb. “There’s a local LGBTQ youth community center, and we always try to repost their events. That shows our community we’re paying attention and care about these events too.” When the values of your coffee shop resonate through your messaging and the partners you collaborate with for events, the impact goes beyond attracting loyal customers. 

According to Kidd, the Hideaway Cafe has consistently attracted enthusiastic individuals eager to work with them. Many of these employees stay for years before eventually pursuing higher education or personal goals. Even during challenging times, such as labor shortages after COVID, Kidd has never struggled to find committed employees. “We never have any trouble finding people to work for us,” Kidd says.

Creating Safer Spaces

As politicians advocate for restrictions on discussions about race, gender, and sexuality in schools, the need for safe spaces becomes even more apparent. This issue was exemplified in May 2023 when the NAACP issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida—a direct response to Florida’s education department blocking an AP African American studies course and imposing a ban on state colleges funding diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the advisory reads. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.” 

In community spaces, marginalized individuals with shared experiences or identities find a source of safety in numbers. By hosting events that support causes, coffee shops can create opportunities for connection, validation, and support from others who understand their journey. And while events are one way cafes can unite people and foster inclusive spaces, how can coffee shops effectively signal their establishment welcomes everyone every day, not just during events? 

Kidd firmly believes in the power of small gestures. Above the cafe’s awning, Hideaway displays the rainbow flag (along with other flags affirming support of various groups within the larger LGBTQIA+ community). On their website, they spell out their values and intent: “At Hideaway, we believe that a neighborhood café should be a place where you can always find great conversation, a spot central to the community’s cultural identity, and a place that plays a crucial role as a safe space for anyone and everyone, regardless of race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, disability, etc.” 

Inside the cafe, customers are greeted by a menu available in Spanish and a mural featuring the word “coffee” in multiple languages painted across the wall. “People are always so appreciative,” Kidd says. “Customers will come in and say, ‘I can’t believe you have this sign in my language.'”  

Drifter Coffee creates special drinks during events and donates the profits to various causes. Following a recent fundraising event, they donated all proceeds from Lavender Haze latte sales to Gamp Camp Escorts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving patient privacy during reproductive care. The sales from this drink special alone raised $600 for the organization during the event.

People know where our values are. They want to know their money is going to people who genuinely care about the things they care about. Alleah Webb, Drifter Coffee

Community support is pivotal in budgeting for charitable causes and events at the Hideaway. Kidd says that when the shop is fundraising for a cause, patrons are much more likely to purchase goods beyond coffee. “Our community funds these projects,” Kidd says. When the Hideaway team learned about a food shortage at their local Boys & Girls Club, they stepped up to help, despite not knowing exactly how they would be able to assist. However, they believed the Winchester community would unite to support the cause. Kidd rallied local restaurants to partner in providing meals for the organization, whether weekly, monthly, or on a one-time basis. She also sought donations to help cover the cost of funding extra meals and serve as a backup in case the cafe couldn’t secure sufficient support from nearby businesses for providing lunches.

Driven by purpose, community-minded cafes exemplify how a simple cup of coffee can ignite meaningful change. By opening their doors to gatherings, fundraisers, and initiatives, business owners create a hub for community engagement. For cafes thinking about embracing philanthropy, Kidd urges them to wholeheartedly give it a shot. “I would encourage any cafe trying to do this to really go for it,” Kidd says.

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Haley Greene

Haley Greene is a freelance writer based in Honolulu, Hawaii. She frequently writes about food, coffee, and wellness. Connect with her at www.haleygreene.com.

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