LITTLETON, Colo. — In a little green house on South Curtice Street, everyone has a story.
“We want to get to know you a meal at a time,” said Heather Greenwood, the owner of GraceFull Cafe in Historic Downtown Littleton. “We want to step into your story and just provide a space where you feel welcome and that we get to know each other across the table.”
GraceFull Cafe provides pay-as-you-can meals
GraceFull Cafe, which opened in the spring of 2016, operates on a pay-what-you-can model. If diners are unable to pay the full price (or pay at all), the GraceFull Foundation will cover the difference up to 100%. And, when diners who can pay full price donate over the meal total, that surplus helps fund future “Grace in Action” meals.
“If you come in and you’re weary and beaten down from life and you’re dealing with evictions or homelessness, or just life as a single mom, life as an immigrant … what’s in your pocket doesn’t matter,” Greenwood said.
“Everybody fits in here, no matter who you are, no matter your status,” a diner told Rocky Mountain PBS when we visited the café. “Just being able to pay what you can — that’s a blessing.”
When the Grace in Action meal program first started, only a couple free meals were served each day. Now, Greenwood said her café provides between 50 and 60 Grace in Action meals each day. That is about half the total meals served, on average.
According to GraceFull Cafe's website, the eatery has served nearly 75,000 free meals since the start of the program.
This type of assistance is a vital resource to many as the issue of homelessness worsens in the Denver metro area. In 2021, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI) conducted its annual “Point in Time Count” to determine how many people are experiencing homelessness in the Denver area. The agency's report found that a “drastic increase” in the number of people in Denver experiencing homelessness for the first time, a surge that surveyors attributed to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read a snapshot of the report here.
One of the GraceFull Cafe's core values, according to its website, is to “invite, welcome and love all people.”
“Some days, it can be really challenging,” Greenwood said. “Some days, it can be really beautiful, and that’s what we’re about because we believe that’s what community is about.”
Another core value for GraceFull Cafe is “give back often and with joy.” People can support the café in several ways, be it through monetary donations or volunteering for a shift doing food prep, bussing or dishwashing.
But the best way to support the café’s mission, according to Greenwood, is simply coming in for a meal.
“We want you to have the same experience that you would have at any other restaurant. A beautiful — we feel, upscale — experience,” Greenwood said. “Because everyone deserves that.”
Brian Willie is the content production manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle Cooke is the digital media manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at email@example.com.