Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beyond FEEDING THE HUNGRY: SAME Café of Denver

SAME is an acronym for So All May Eat, the philosophy behind SAME Café of Denver. Located in a store front a short distance east of the gold-domed Colorado State Capitol building, SAME Café and owners Brad and Libby Birky have been profiled by nearly every print publication in Denver as well as national outlets like NBC Nightly News and Cooking Light magazine. While such exposure has helped with recent outpourings of donations and support for this unique business venture, Brad and Libby continue to depend on their Denver customers to keep the doors of SAME Café open. Such dependence—coupled with a desire to serve those most in need in the community—contribute not only to the emotional appeal of the SAME Café business model, but to its booming success.

Simply put, anyone is invited to walk into SAME Café and order a meal, whether or not he or she can afford to pay a penny for it. Those who can afford to pay are encouraged to donate a little extra to help cover the cost of feeding those who can’t. Those who can’t pay are asked to donate an hour of service (e.g., sweeping the floor or wiping tables) per meal.

Either way, SAME Café patrons enjoy a rotating selection of fresh soups, salads, pizzas or wraps, and desserts made from seasonal and primarily organic ingredients. Tempted by the smells of such great food, some passersby stop in and are surprised to see no prices on the posted menu, and no cash register. The honor system is alive and well at SAME Café; so is hope for those who come in with nothing and leave not only with their hunger sated, but their dignity intact.


Look for other Unite for Hunger and Hope posts on more than 500 blogs April 29 during the BloggersUnite campaign to raise awareness of world hunger. Right here at home, people go hungry every day. According to the Food Bank of the Rockies, at least 200,000 individuals in the metro Denver area live in poverty. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, a person in the U.S. lives in poverty when he or she earns less than $11,000 annually; a family of four lives in poverty when its wage earners earn $22,000 or less a year. The latest figures state that in 2007, 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line. According to a January article from Reuters (In a recession, poverty strikes middle class), that number is rising at an alarming rate. Thankfully people like Brad and Libby Birky and those who support SAME Café are doing more than simply wringing their hands about the growing hunger crisis. As Brad was quoted in Cooking Light, “We’re just out to quietly change the world, one meal at a time.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Beyond PHENOMENAL: Playing For Change

Playing For Change began as a celebration of street musicians in the U.S. that focused on performers in NYC, LA, and New Orleans. Consider this June 2006 PFC blog post about a trip PFC folks took to New Orleans as the city struggled to recover from the humiliation and devastation of Hurricane Katrina. One of the staff wrote of a singular moment during a performance by “Grandpa,” who’s sung “on the same corner for some 20 plus years…sending his formidable tenor and bellowing bass to greet loyal passer-byers and all those who’d listen.”:

“I was standing kitty-corner to Grandpa while [other PFC staffers] were recording a song about Louisiana, and I was taking some still shots. I stopped to take in a moment where everything around us just seemed to stop…all I could hear was his beautiful voice, when suddenly I was startled by a man standing right behind me practically breathing over my shoulder. He said to me softly, ‘His voice has made me smile for so many years. I thought we had lost him. But he’s back and so are we.’ The man was not there to converse, just to listen, chime in, and be on his way. I stood breathless as Grandpa sang, ‘They’re trying to wash us away…’ and he sang the words again, and then one more time.”

Within the next year, Playing For Change had expanded its focus to include performers from across the globe. In 2008, its documentary/“global concert film” Playing for Change: Peace Through Music debuted at the Tribecca Film Festival and won the Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival.

Watch the remarkable, impossible-to-ever-forget “Stand By Me” music video featured on the PFC site; Grandpa’s voice truly is beautiful, even moreso when it’s woven into a tapestry of voices and instrumentals from around the world. Talk about performances fueled by passion and purpose. As PFC founder, co-director and producer Mark Johnson wrote in a blog post last November:

“This act of playing music with different cultures, religions, economics, and politics is a powerful statement. It…illustrates that we can find ways of working together and sharing our experiences with one another in a positive way. Before we were ever different, we were all human beings.”

Later this month the Playing For Change CD/DVD Songs Around the World will be released and yes, I’ve preordered it. Thanks (once again!) to Lisa Kenney for such an inspiring link. I am so looking forward to enjoying Songs Around the World and learning more about Playing For Change in the future. Oh yeah, they build schools too. Wow.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Beyond FINESSE: Greg Mortenson, Revisited

Serendipity strikes again. While my daughter’s in an orthodontist appointment this morning, I pick up a magazine I’ve never seen: Outside. I crack up through the personal essay Who’s Your Daddy by 50-something adventurer Ian Frazier and make a note to look up Outside online. Back home a few hours later, I stumble across the magazine’s blog, scroll down a few posts and discover Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Cool. Then I see a link; a writer for Outside magazine not only profiled “Dr. Greg” last year, but went on the road with him. In Afghanistan. I click to the archived piece, see this amazing photograph, and read on. As my youngest (now headed for braces, poor kid) would say, serendipity rocks.

P.S. Thanks to Gerry at TwoBlueDay for the heads up re: an ABC News piece on Mortenson aired a few weeks ago. Seems ABC is listening to viewers who want to hear some good news for a change. Maybe in the fall they’ll report Mortenson has indeed won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Photo © 2008 Dan Winters