Baristas, Broader Community Throwdown for DC-Area’s Homeless Youth

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A latte art throwdown and raffle raised support for local nonprofit Sasha Bruce Youthwork, which is celebrating 50 years of assisting D.C.’s homeless youth.

BY JASON HUFFNAGLE
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

A typical Friday night at The Roost in Washington, D.C., is filled with diners and sprinting children, who take advantage of the extra space that the adjoining Cameo Coffee + Tea provides. However, on Friday, June 28, you would have heard the sounds of grinders and steam wands instead. Baristas and community members were gathered for a latte art throwdown with a purpose: to transform their passion for coffee and competition into tangible support for D.C.’s homeless youth.

Foam and fortune are fleeting. Baristas gather to make a lasting impact for D.C.’s homeless youth. Photo by Josh Gilbert.

Kenia Euceda and Sasha Bruce Youthwork

With all the coffee and milk poured during such events, the waste can sometimes feel at odds with our industry’s values. Veteran coffee professional Kenia Euceda has long pondered this dilemma, prompting her, as the coffee director for Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG), to create a model for meaningfully gathering her fellow baristas. This instinct to do better by her industry, along with a desire to engage the broader community, led to her organizing a fundraiser to benefit Sasha Bruce Youthwork.

For 50 years, Sasha Bruce Youthwork has been a lifeline for Washington, D.C.’s homeless youth, providing essential support like food, shelter, clothing, and more. It is the only emergency shelter for people under 18 in the District of Columbia.

It takes a community to make a difference. From left to right: Elisabeth Joffe (Minor Figures) helped with competition sign-ups; Kenia Euceda (Cameo Coffee/NRG) organized the event; and Lenora Yerkes (Ceremony Coffee Roasters) assisted with the raffle tickets and the drawing. Photo by Jason Huffnagle.

For Kenia, gathering the community to make a tangible difference is missional. It’s also a way for Kenia to give back. Sasha Bruce Youthwork provided support to Kenia’s mother, Erika, when she first emigrated to Washington, D.C., from El Salvador.

Because of this, Kenia has a vision for what events like these could mean for coffee shops and a larger role they can play outside of their four walls. “Coffee shops have consistently played a role in community building,” Kenia said. “When baristas, ‘coffee nerds,’ and regulars gather for a cause, we are able to engage other companies with what affects our communities, (and) through that concept we can support organizations like Sasha Bruce Youthwork who have made a lasting impact in the region.”

Minimizing Waste, Maximizing Impact

Showing their support is exactly what baristas and members of the broader community did at the throwdown. They were invited to participate in the evening’s latte art competition and raffle, with all proceeds from the event going to support Sasha Bruce’s work in the city.

Baristas paid a $5 buy-in to compete. Competition rounds and raffle drawings were interspersed throughout the evening, making for a fun and festive atmosphere. The event attracted veteran and novice baristas alike, as well as members from D.C.’s Hill East neighborhood.

With the backing of NRG, Kenia organized the event and received support from a full set of sponsors, including Spirit Tea, Parlor Coffee, Minor Figures, A Toda Madre Coffee Roasters, and La Finca Coffee. Sponsors provided coffee, oat milk, and matcha for the throwdown, while others donated various merchandise–like retail coffee bags, stickers, and totes for the raffle.

Industry partners made direct donations to Sasha Bruce Youthwork: Parlor Coffee made a $500 donation and Spirit Tea matched 1:1 every donation made. With the buy-in, raffle, and industry donations, the event raised $2,144.

Every aspect of the throwdown event was designed to delight, including the surprise matcha latte art for the final round of the competition, which ended with split judges. As determined in advance, the rules of the competition required weighing out each contestant’s milk waste, with the winner being Grace from Swings Coffee.

Between the barista buy-in, raffle, and industry donations, the throwdown raised $2,144 for Sasha Bruce Youthwork. Photo by Jason Huffnagle.

Combining Coffee and Fundraising

This wasn’t Kenia’s first foray into a combined latte-art-competition-fundraiser. Immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Kenia—along with DMV Coffee—held a similar event. That evening, competitors and locals raised $3,000 in support of women’s health organizations in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Events like these enable and empower coffee people. As professionals, we serve our community daily; it comes with the job. However, creating meaningful change often requires more of us. It means showing up—in whatever way that’s required—so that we can be positive forces through direct participation, sponsorship, simply spreading awareness, or more. Showing up creates opportunities for us to support the work of others, have fun, and translate our passion for coffee into compassionate action.

Want to help? Sasha Bruce Youthwork is celebrating 50 years of service in 2024. Visit Sasha Bruce Youthwork’s website to explore how you can support Washington’s homeless youth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Huffnagle is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He’s a former barista, current coffee obsessive, and a longtime contributor to Barista Magazine. His writing for Barista Magazine focuses primarily on the coffee community, coffee-fueled travel, and innovations in the coffee and hospitality space.

Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.

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Source: Barista Magazine

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