One Mug at a Time

On any given night there are 8,350 homeless persons in DC. The annual homeless assessment report from HUD revealed that homelessness in the District increased 14.4% in 2016, the third largest spike in the country. Also, while the number of single homeless persons might be falling, the number of children and parents experiencing homelessness is rapidly increasing.

These statistics can seem daunting, and there’s a lot of work to do. However, its people like those at District Mugs that provide me hope. Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit this unique program that works to combat some of these problems in our city.

Fotor_149334976440031
Learning about design and falling in love with all of these mugs. Photo by Yasser Osafat

District Mugs launched less than a year ago. The social enterprise was started by Shreya Bhargava, Founder and Director, after she volunteered at homeless shelters in DC. She saw the misconceptions about the homeless population and also the potential, and she wanted to create a program that would empower them. Courtney D’Amico, Assistant Director, has been involved since the beginning, eager to provide skills and resources for clients to become self-sufficient. Yasser Osafat and Try Serino round out the team as art instructors whose rapport with the clients is effortless and fun.

Their clients, who are single mothers or people who are currently experiencing or have experienced homelessness, come from their partners at Street Sense. Every Thursday morning a group meets at the Church of the Epiphany to decorate coffee mugs. They guess that they have had 30 people come through since their inception.

District Mugs aims to teach their clients not only about art, but business and self-sufficiency. Their goal is to provide people the resources to be able to run a small company of their own. Along the way they are making new friends, developing a creative outlet, and increasing their monthly income.

Fotor_14933496636469
Try works with Reggie to perfect his most recent mug set. Photo by Yasser Osafat

The team paints mugs for holidays and corporate orders; however, between these special occasions they experiment with new ideas and techniques. Shreya and Courtney remember how the clients were hesitant at first to get creative. However, when I visited, I sensed no hesitation, but eagerness to test their capabilities and pride in their accomplishments. They looked to one another for suggestions and encouragement, and a couple of them were even hard at work on mugs they can sell as a set.

Mugs go for a suggested donation of $10. District Mugs keeps $1.50 to go towards purchasing more supplies, and the rest of the sale goes to the artist. This encourages them to hone their skills and make even more mugs!

The nonprofit wants to expand eventually – designing more than coffee mugs and meeting more than once a week. But for now, I would say the work they are doing is extremely impressive.

Fotor_149334986849353
Sheila beginning her next polka-dot project. Photo by Yasser Osafat

If you’re interested in purchasing a mug, you can do so at Purposeful Purchases. District Mugs also hosts pop-ups – previous ones held at Pottery Barn, Mellow Mushroom, West Elm, and Lava Barre. Be sure to follow their Instagram page to stay up to date on where they’ll be next!

Take a look below at some of the beautiful mugs these artists have created! And please join me in saluting District Mugs who is changing the lives of DC’s single mothers, homeless, and formerly homeless, one mug at a time.

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

Advertisements

Coffee with a Cause

Sitting at Bourbon Coffee I am inspired by coffee with a cause. Lauren and I wanted to highlight a few cafes that serve a greater purpose and no better place to start than here!

BOURBON COFFEE

Bourbon Coffee sources all of their beans directly from farms in Rwanda where they have direct trade relationships. I recently learned that most African coffee farming is much different than what you read about in Central and South America, for example, as African coffee farms tend to be much smaller and run alongside other agriculture to feed the families of the farmers. Due to this, most African coffees are sourced through cooperatives and other partnerships.

img_3889
Bourbon Coffee

Bourbon Coffee buys coffee only directly from farmers and coops, eliminating any middlemen and therefore allowing their farmers to receive more than 25% of the fair trade price for their coffee. They have built relationships with their farmers and coops boasting transparency and fairness.

This also empowers African coffee farmers to participate directly in the global marketplace and increase their economic development. It’s no coincidence that Bourbon’s first US location is in Foggy Bottom not too far from the Peace Corps, USAID, and other humanitarian organizations.

img_3895
Story behind the cup at Bourbon Coffee

EBENEZER COFFEEHOUSE

Ebenezer Coffeehouse is owned and operated by National Community Church and all their proceeds go back into community outreach programs. They are actively involved in building DC through their many locations and projects.

img_5074
Inviting space at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

They are located near Union Station and have that vibe of giving travelers rest in a warm and inviting space.

Furthermore they serve One Village Coffee from Pennsylvania. They source only fair trade coffees and donate $1 of every Artist Blend coffee back to the COMSA Coop in Honduras to build bee colonies. They also donate coffee to homeless programs in Philadelphia.

img_3970
Ebenezers Coffeehouse

THE POTTER’S HOUSE

The Potter’s House is a 100% non-profit cafe that was formed during the 1960s to create an inclusive environment for everyone. They promote activism, the arts, and community development.

img_5645
Books, cards, art, and coffee at the Potter’s House

They have a ‘pay what you can’ soup program and a ‘pay it forward’ coffee program where you can buy someone else a cup of coffee. They host community events and are also environmentally conscious, using solar energy, sensor technology, and a compost program for food scraps.

Not that they can have too many because their food is delicious and the atmosphere terrific!

DOGTAG BAKERY

We highlighted Dogtag Bakery during Veterans Day so we’ll keep it short, but we think it’s pretty cool that 100% of their profits go back into their fellowship program to help entrepreneurial veterans.

fullsizerender_1
Dog Tag Bakery

What are some other cafes that you like to go to because of their mission (and great coffee of course)?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle