Cafe with a Cause

By: Erika Dani, Nonprofit Outreach Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities

While in Chicago this weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Chicago Cares, another HandsOn Network affiliate like HandsOn Twin Cities.

Since I work closely with many of the shelters and drop-in centers in the Twin Cities, I was particularly interested in a volunteer opportunity called the Living Room Café, run by an organization called Inspiration Corporation. Unlike most meal serving volunteer opportunities, this one was set up restaurant-style. Guests were seated and volunteer waiters and waitresses took their orders. Guests were able to choose from pancakes, eggs, beef sausage, bacon, stir-fry, grits, fresh fruit salad, coffee and juice and their orders were brought up to the kitchen, where I was preparing the stir-fry.

I appreciated the freedom that I was given as a volunteer to let my creative cooking side be explored. The stir-fry I made consisted of broccoli, carrots and onions. Attempting to mimic an Indian-style dish, I first sautéed the onions with chili powder as well as cumin, coriander and ginger powders. I added the vegetables, sprinkled a bit of cardamom and salt and voila!

I hope that organizations in the Twin Cities are able to incorporate the restaurant-style meal service into their meal- serving programs. Even if it is just once every other month, or as often as once a week, it is fun to switch things up once in a while!

Organizations who are interested in working with HandsOn Twin Cities to make this happen, please contact Erika Dani at

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