Global Coffee & Cargo (2917 W. Armitage Ave.) may seem like just a coffee shop at first glance, but there’s more than meets the eye. The cafe is flanked by a thrift store and a community garden, and sits underneath Jack Clarks Family recovery home. All the organizations are connected to the nonprofit Sunlight of the Spirit (SOS), which works with people who are recovering from addiction, were recently released from prison or are at risk for homelessness.
Jack Clarks Family has several locations in Chicago, especially areas lacking resources. Headed by Denise Downing, Chad Roberson and Michalina Zawila, SOS was originally formed to provide food and assistance to individuals living at the Jack Clarks Family recovery home at Kedzie Avenue and Fulton Street. The SOS team started the Loaves and Fishes food pantry to assist the residents of the home, and has since expanded outreach programs.
Global Coffee & Cargo is run by SOS and provides program participants with employment training. Funds from the cafe and thrift store allow SOS to maintain Global and the food pantry, and to provide resources for Jack Clarks Family residents, such as bus passes, clothes and basic amenities.
Chris J., an employee at the cafe, explains that people who are recovering from substance abuse or were recently incarcerated face many logistical obstacles when getting back on their feet. Even getting a state ID to be eligible for employment can be challenging.
“Sunlight of the Spirit tries to alleviate a lot of stress for that person returning home so that they can be successful,” Chris says.
And The Coffee’s Good, Too
Global Coffee is not just a community asset helping people in need; it’s also a place to get a cup of coffee. The beverage offerings include Intelligentsia coffee and Rishi tea, as well as a wide selection of fresh juices and smoothies. Try the Refresher, which is a juice made of cucumber, carrot, apple, celery, lemon and ginger.
The food menu includes breakfast fare such as omelets and pastries, and sandwiches and salads for lunch. The cafe also offers free WiFi.
The interior of Global Coffee contains an eclectic mix of furniture, with artwork hanging on the exposed brick walls. Some of the paintings were created during Global’s Open Mic night, which takes place every Thursday from 5 pm-9 pm.
Joshua Baigelman, a volunteer, organized the Open Mic night, and it’s an opportunity for people to come to the cafe to express themselves artistically. In the past, Global has featured projection arts, bands and DJs, world music, spoken word and live painting.
Although the first purpose of the cafe is to provide job skills for SOS participants, Baigelman says they also want it to serve as a space to support the arts and creative people in the neighborhood.
“Denise and Michalina are very supportive of artists and want a creative community where people can go and express themselves without the presence of mind and body altering substances,” Baigelman says.
The Thrift Store Next Door
The “cargo” portion of Global Coffee & Cargo refers to the thrift store next door. All of the merchandise is donated by private individuals and estate sales. Although the stock changes depending on these donations, on most days you can find plenty of furniture, artwork and dinnerware.
The thrift store also has different daily deals, including buy-one-get-one-free artwork on Thursdays, 75 percent off crystal on Fridays, and 50 percent off all merchandise on Sundays.
An employee at the store particularly enjoys meeting new couples and college students just getting started in Logan Square who are looking for affordable wares to furnish their homes.
Community Garden Plans To Maximize the Space
The garden was developed by SOS and Urban Habitat Chicago (UHC), an urban farming organization. Kerem Sengun, a UHC member who has managed the garden since February 2013, aims to “create a peaceful, engaging, educational space that is first and foremost rehabilitating to those residing at Jack Clarks.”
As the current growing season ends, Sengun envisions work that will be done this winter to improve the design and functionality of the garden. Plans include reworking the space to be inviting to passersby and customers at Global Coffee, who can enjoy their food and beverages at one of the many outdoor tables.
Ideally, the garden also will feature a patio that doubles as a stage so that events can be hosted outdoors in the spring, Sengun says.
The group also hopes to increase the production of the garden so that produce can be sent to the food pantry and shared among volunteers and visitors. By turning the garden into an inviting community space as well as a reliable food source, Sengun hopes they will meet their goal of making the garden “intriguing and productive.”
A Unique Neighborhood Asset
Though the commercial climate on the block has seen many changes since Global opened, Chris says he thinks the organization will continue to thrive.
“People congregate here that want to support Global’s mission,” Baigelman says.
Global Coffee & Cargo actively seeks people who would like to host events or participate in Open Mic night. Those who are interested in the community garden should look out for a mailing list in the spring.
But you cannot help but feel a sense of community just by sitting at one of the cafe’s many tables and enjoying a cup of coffee. As Baigelman says, “It’s a community gathering place that people should really take advantage of. I think that this place is an undiscovered treasure.”
Editor’s note: Some of the last names of those quoted were omitted for privacy purposes at the request of either the SOS program or the source.