Volunteer Spotlight: David Bradley, Barista at Café Renovare

David Bradley, one of our generous volunteers, serves the guests staying at Base Camp by making them coffee and chatting with them.

“I just wanted to be of service and felt it was the right thing to do,” he said about his motivation for volunteering.

David began serving when Café Renovare was located at the Mission’s Drop-In Center. Volunteer efforts were put on pause during the first part of the pandemic. But since volunteering has started up again, David now helps our temporary low-barrier shelter, Base Camp.

Read on for the full interview!

“Opening up the Café really boosts the mood & vibe of the whole place. It brightens up Base Camp and people become more chatty and cheerful.”

David Bradley, Lighthouse Mission Volunteer

What does a volunteer shift at Café Renovare look like?

I turn on the machine, set up the coffee supplies, equipment, and bring out the flavorings. At Café Renovare, people sign up on the list with their name, order, and whether they’ll be paying with money or with a ticket they earned for doing a chore.

I work 2- or 3-hour-long shifts and make an average of 25 to 30 espresso drinks per shift. When it’s busy and I have 8 or more people on the list of orders, I might ask new people to wait a bit so I can catch up on making drinks.

What do you think about the option to earn a coffee drink?

I think it’s a win-win when they earn a ticket – I think it helps them feel like they’re contributing and doing their part, and it boosts their self-esteem.

Plus, opening up the Café really boosts the mood and vibe of the whole place. It brightens up Base Camp and people become more chatty and cheerful. It’s a nice way to connect with people who are homeless in a healthy and wholesome way.

Are you training any other volunteers to be baristas?

I’m currently training about four other volunteers to work at Café Renovare. They shadow me for a while so I can show them how to make different drinks. Usually, by the end of one session, they’re good to go!

Have you had any meaningful interactions with guests?

All the time! I don’t consider myself super extroverted but it’s like meeting people and chatting. A lot of people get emotional when I make them a drink. And a lot of them start telling me their story.

Café Renovare also tries to accommodate the needs of guests. A guest once had to track their fluid intake because of a medical condition, and he was asking me how many ounces his drink would count for. I figured out a way measure it for him so he could have his coffee drink without any worry.

What has stood out to you over the years of volunteering?

I think there might be an inflow of grace that happens when you’re blessing others like that. I’ve noticed that God steps in to provide what’s needed. Even if it’s that one guest comes to you at the end of a shift with a very specific request, and you’ve got just enough ingredients left to bless them with that special coffee.

Or maybe it’s that one guest doesn’t have a dollar and maybe they’re not capable of doing a chore that day to earn a ticket… when another guest volunteers to pay for their coffee. I’m always amazed at how things work out.

What’s your vision for your work at Café Renovare?

I like the expression “truly helpful” and I aim to help lift people’s spirits when they need it. I’m grateful for the Lighthouse Mission, and grateful to be of service.


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