‘When Passion and Purpose Converge’: Good Day Cafe Celebrates 5 Years

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Note: This article was originally published by StateCollege.com and is reprinted with their permission. Hearts in the Highlands is pleased that the Good Day Cafe in Hamilton Square is part of the Highlands community.

Brooke Fisher, seen here handing out a Good Day Cafe sticker in 2018, was among the shop’s first employees and is still working there five years on. Photo by Darren Andrew Weimert | Town&Gown

By Geoff Rushton – August 18, 2023

Since opening its doors in 2018, Good Day Café has been serving great coffee and food to the State College community, but its impact has gone much further.

Dedicated to employing adults with intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges, the nonprofit coffee shop at 286 W. Hamilton Ave. on Friday celebrated five years in business as a home for community inclusion and empowerment.

“Good Day Café stands as a testament to the remarkable potential that flourishes when passion and purpose converge,” said Cindy Pasquinelli, CEO of the nonprofit Strawberry Fields Inc., which created the shop. “It’s a privilege to witness individuals with diverse abilities finding employment and forming genuine connections within our community.”

The idea for the cafe started brewing when State College chiropractor Roy Love visited Wilmington, North Carolina and came across Bitty & Beaus Coffee, a coffee shop with a similar mission.

After several visits, he was so impressed he brought the concept to Strawberry Fields and soon an advisory committee was formed.

Strawberry Fields has been providing support services to children and adults with a wide range of disabilities and needs for decades, and Pasquinelli saw the shop as an opportunity to further that work.

“We provide a variety of services from babies through the whole lifespan, children and adults with all types of disabilities,’ Pasquinelli said in 2018. “It became so apparent that what was lacking was employment opportunities.”

The project was awarded a $100,000 Centre Inspires grant from Centre Foundation in 2017, and along with other donations from across the community, Good Day Café was able to open to the public on Aug. 18, 2018 with no debt to pay off.

“Five years into this venture our gratitude knows no bounds to all who helped bring the cafe dream to life, our generous donors, our funders and our patrons who support our mission and our vision for an inclusive community,” Pasquinelli said in a statement on Friday.

According to Strawberry Fields, the cafe has become “a haven for a diverse clientele,” from the regulars who stop in for their daily coffee to knitting clubs to business meetings to students studying. They can pick from locally roasted by Rothrock Coffee drinks, locally blended Spectral Tea and a menu of breakfast and lunch items and pastries served by friendly staff who are enjoying an important opportunity.

The unemployment rates for people with autism, intellectual disabilities and mental health diagnoses are high, upwards of 80%, according to Strawberry Fields. Along with five staff members in supervisory roles, Good Day Café regularly employs more than a dozen people with disabilities, providing meaningful employment, community connections and social benefits in a space where diversity and belonging are celebrated.

“Good Day Café’s success is not just measured by the number of coffees sold but by the stories of its employees who have found a sense of purpose and the countless customers who have found a community,” Strawberry Fields wrote in a release on Friday. “As the café embarks on another five years of service, it remains dedicated to ensuring people of all abilities can contribute and belong to our community where diversity is celebrated.

Good Day Café is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Learn more about the shop, order online or place a catering order at gooddaycafe.org.