Earlier this month, as part of the Blue Margin Community Works program, my colleague Angela and I volunteered at the FoCo Café

If you aren’t familiar with this local gem, the FoCo Café is in the heart of downtown Fort Collins, and is truly representative of the strength of Fort Collins’ giving community. 

The cafe opened its doors in 2014 with two simple philosophies: 

1) All are welcome.

2) If you can’t afford a meal, come in anyway.  Simply exchange an hour of your time by helping around the restaurant (washing dishes, mopping floors, and weeding the garden), and eat what you like. 

Simply put, the founders of FoCo Café believe that exchanging your time and talent, no matter
your economic circumstance, is a dignified exchange, allowing everyone to contribute to the solution.  As an example, while we were there, two gentlemen, unable to pay, came in for a cup of coffee and on their way out swept the deck and cleaned the outdoor chairs.


As volunteers, we quickly learned that FoCo Café’s volunteer base is what makes them successful.  In fact, they only have 3 paid employees and they serve over 80,000 meals per year - lunch only. 

And their impact goes beyond their walls.  The Café purchases food from local business and non-profit partners, like the Fort Collins Food Co-op, to actively support those with the same communal goal.  They also source fresh produce from 15+ local farms to support laborers. 

And boy do they work with some prolific farmers, at least in the apple category!

Angela and I cut apples, non-stop, for 2 hours.  Apple slices for salad, apple cubes for a dessert …. apples, apples, and more apples.  Even after we finished our shift, there were still 4 bushels of apples in the basement waiting to be cut.   

Despite being moms for a combined 5 kids under the age of 7, the Café volunteers helped us take our slicing skills to a whole new level.  So we've got that to add to our resumes.  The best part was finding a place where we can sit side by side with fellow members of the community from all walks of life, enjoy a fantastic meal, and work together to build a sustainable solution.

Sara Sanders

Written by Sara Sanders