Sometimes the best ideas are hatched while sharing a local beer with friends. A discussion of the amazing work being done by local nonprofits led FoCo Cafe’s cofounder Jeff to mention the idea of a nonprofit cafe. Kathleen replied that she had recently seen a news story about one in Denver – SAME Café.

At the time, Jeff was teaching, with a background in medicine and agricultural/food research and a passion for cooking. Kathleen was a Director of Communications at Colorado State University managing print, web, social media, and outreach efforts for the college. Jeff and Kathleen wanted to combine their experiences and passions into a setting that offered amazing food, a commitment to service, and building community at its center.

And so it began…an e-mail to SAME Café led to volunteering at that café within a week, which then led both Jeff and Kathleen to begin researching the need in Fort Collins. They began setting meetings with anyone and everyone in town. The overwhelmingly positive response pushed them forward.

Only months later, Jeff and Kathleen found their garage full of donated kitchen equipment, café tables, and chairs. Boxes of dishes would appear on their front porch, e-mails came in from people eager to volunteer, college students began working on key projects, professionals were offering valuable services at no cost; and this pay-what-you-can cafe became a reality, opening on Thanksgiving Day in 2014.

In 2017, Jeff and Kathleen Baumgardner retired to Hawaii. They turned the reins over to their intern, Mallory Garneau. Mallory joined the FoCo Café team as an intern in August 2016 and became Executive Director in June 2017, after graduating with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Colorado State University. She currently oversees all of the cafe operations.