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Letter from Executive Director, David Coffey

Dear Incredible Recovery Café Community,

On March 17th we hosted our 11th Resource Connection Day (RCD). It was a great success and marked more than 1,080 RCD visits in the last year. 

At the same time, it was also the 1-year anniversary of Recovery Café’s closing as a gathering space. Our Executive Committee and Leadership Team had met almost daily beginning last March, and at that point we discerned that in the best interest of our Members’ safety, we should close as a gathering space. This decision was one of the most painful I have been a part of in my career. In that process we agreed to turn our SODO site (which had only been open for a month) over to King County to be used as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness. As I walked through that building taking a video of the space to record what it looked like before we turned it over, my heart was breaking. The latte machine, an instrument of sharing love, was all taped up; the food buffet was covered with cardboard. The photos of Social Justice Heroes on our walls looked over a silent milieu space. The medical clinic, the product of 10,000 hours of meeting with various medical providers and the joy of Country Doctor joining with us on the concept, was now empty like the rest of the building. In my despair, I wondered if we would ever return, and who would be around if we did?  

The Safe Place for Writers class, which has been faithfully meeting weekly online, shared with us one of their writing prompts about kindness that has resonated with me since the beginning of this journey. 

This past year has been one of incredible change. We pivoted from an in-person model of radical hospitality and healing support to one that was primarily based on one-on-one teleconnection phone support and virtual platforms, Zoom and Facebook Live. At the same time, recognizing that we were a primary source of nutrition for many people, we initiated a daily to-go meal program. Since March 17th, we have provided food 7 days a week, every day, and served over 45,000 meals. In light of the isolation of so many, we stood up three Outreach Teams: one at Evergreen Treatment Service’s Airport Way Site, one to campers in Denny Park, and one in partnership with Country Doctor to the Tiny House Villages throughout the city. Our Recovery Café Network Team pivoted to helping Recovery Cafe’s around the country innovate and and adjust their service model. Finally, especially early in the pandemic when our community was in a massive lockdown, we recognized the need not only to connect people to services but to communicate clearly and directly to each person Recovery Café serves that you are not forgotten, you are not abandoned, you are important to us, you are loved.  

In the past year, we have grieved the loss of several people in our community, and we have celebrated the wins—housing secured, stimulus checks, good food, and the incredible, kind generosity of this community.  

All of this work, all of the progress, all of the hope was made possible by You. This has been one of the hardest times our organization has encountered, and the grace, the kindness, the faithfulness of You our community has seen us through.  In ways too numerous to record, we are grateful for You. Faith Communities, CrossFit Gyms, schools, families, individuals, other providers, government entities, restaurants, businesses, mask brigades—a list to long for us to do justice to—rallied to provide so many things including masks (our first and most difficult need), food, toilet paper, clothes, masks, camping gear, personal notes, and home baked cookies.   On April 13th we will re-open South Lake Union as a gathering space. The healing milieu will once again ring with the joyful noise of a community of radical hospitality. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping us hold the hope for so many in such a hard time. Your kindness has truly made all the difference.