When we say, “the spirit of the season,” it may conjure up images of people in a festive mood. In general, people are often a little friendlier and more willing to lend a helping hand during the holidays.
December is also the month when people give the most to charities. Though the percentage varies depending on the source consulted, between one-third and one-half of annual giving occurs in December.
While it’s true some of those December donations are made for tax purposes, we like to think most are made out of generosity. We know that’s the case with a group of residents here at Heron’s Key known as the Benevolent Brew Crew, or the BBC.
Members of the BBC volunteer their time and energy to run the Benevolent Brew Café, and 100% of the program’s profits are donated to the Benevolence Fund. It’s a way BBC members can add a little something extra to their neighbors’ days now—and ensure help is available later on for those who may need it.
Though the BBC typically sees an uptick in activity and sales during December, the group runs the program throughout the year.
How the Benevolent Brew Café Began
With more than 30 resident-led groups at Heron’s Key, there’s a diverse range of special-interest activities available for participation. When residents have ideas for new groups, there’s almost always enough interest among their neighbors to make that happen.
That’s precisely how the Benevolent Brew Café came to be, early in 2020.
Linnea Hunsicker-McNair, one of the first residents at Heron’s Key, decided to put her experience as a barista to use in a manner that would benefit the community. She came up with the concept of the Benevolent Brew Café. It started as a coffee bar in Syren’s Grille that was open to everyone, including visitors, on Friday and Saturday mornings.
From the start, the Benevolent Brew Café was intended to be a venue where people could begin the day with their beverage of choice and some friendly conversation. The name was chosen to reflect the other purpose of the program: to benefit the community Benevolence Fund.
Linnea hoped eventually the Benevolent Brew Café would become a full breakfast café similar to the one at Emerald Heights, our sister community in Redmond. Though that’s still a possibility, the pandemic altered the way the program operated.
What the Benevolence Fund Does
The Benevolence Fund at Heron’s Key provides confidential financial assistance with community fees if residents need help in the future. The Benevolent Brew Café is one of several resident-managed volunteer programs that supports the Benevolence Fund.
Residents, staff and board members also make generous donations to the Benevolence Fund, and residents can leave a portion of their estate to the Benevolence Fund through a recently launched program called the Legacy Society.
The Benevolent Brew Café Today
For the better part of two years, the Benevolent Brew Café operated strictly as a delivery service. Residents and staff placed their orders, and the BBC delivered piping-hot beverages to the recipient’s door or desk.
The deliveries became so popular, the BBC decided to continue them even after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and people could once again congregate in person.
These days, the Benevolent Brew Café is open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings from 8 until 10. The BBC currently consists of 23 resident volunteers who are trained as runners, cashiers or baristas—and in a few cases, all three! All BBC members have completed the online training necessary to earn a Food Worker Card from the Washington State Department of Health.
Patrons of the Benevolent Brew Café can choose from an impressive list of coffee-based drinks, including espresso, cappuccino, caramel macchiato, latte, mocha and, of course, brewed coffee, chai, hot cider and hot chocolate are also on the menu.
Gift certificates are available, and so are coffee mugs made specifically for Benevolent Brew.
All profits are donated to the Benevolence Fund. According to Bev Cheney, resident chair of BBC’s management team, the program donated $10,300 through the end of December 2021. That’s a lot of lattes!
The BBC-Neighbors Care Collaboration
Neighbors Care, a group led by resident Susan Inui, pairs new residents with a mentor of sorts—a member of the group who volunteers to help the “new kid” become familiar with the community and all it offers.
In their welcome package, new residents receive a coupon for a free beverage at the Benevolent Brew Café. The Neighbors Care volunteer who is paired with the new resident also gets a coupon, so they can get acquainted while enjoying a smooth cup of coffee—or another beverage of choice.
It’s a small but effective way the two groups work together to help new people feel happy to be here.
Bev Cheney noted that becoming a BBC member is a great way to meet other residents. She said the group can always use more volunteers, as there’s a good chance some members will be traveling or busy with other plans on any given day.
You, Too, Could Be a Barista. Or Not.
Making and delivering coffee drinks is an example of the many volunteer activities open to residents who want to connect with their neighbors and do something positive for their community.
If volunteering isn’t your cup of tea—or coffee, as the case may be—there are countless other options at Heron’s Key for enjoying an active lifestyle and engaging with new friends.
If you’re looking at retirement communities that offer independent living in Gig Harbor, we encourage you to contact us and come have a look around. If you like, we could schedule your visit on a morning the Benevolent Brew Café is open. You could sip an espresso, our treat, while drinking in the possibilities of living here.