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Sacred Grounds Café employee and former St. Patrick Center client Stephanie Parisi, right, talked with library employee Sarah Reddick at the cafe Jan. 2 at St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library in St. Louis.
Sacred Grounds Café employee and former St. Patrick Center client Stephanie Parisi, right, talked with library employee Sarah Reddick at the cafe Jan. 2 at St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Brewing opportunity: Clients of St. Patrick Center staff Sacred Grounds Cafe to gain valuable on-the-job skills and experience

Clients of St. Patrick Center staff Sacred Grounds Café to gain valuable on-the-job skills and experience

Behind the counter at Sacred Grounds Café, Kamryn Flacke confidently crafts steaming lattes and icy frappes.

Her skill as a barista is one of several ways St. Patrick Center has helped her get back on her feet after she was evicted from her apartment last July. While staying at St. Patrick Center through the Women’s Night Program, Flacke discovered the barista training offered through the center’s workforce development program.

Mary Simon, a parishioner at St. Josephine Bahkita, read a copy of a newspaper at St. Patrick Center’s Sacred Grounds Café on Dec. 21. The cafe, at St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library in St. Louis, is operated by clients of St. Patrick Center.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
“It was something that always interested me because I love coffee, and I always order it,” she said. “So I decided it would be a good opportunity to expand my skill set and learn something completely new.”

In December, St. Patrick Center opened Sacred Grounds Café in the Central Cafe space of St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library, located in Downtown St. Louis just three blocks from St. Patrick Center. St. Patrick Center clients, including Flacke, staff the cafe, gaining valuable on-the-job skills and experience.

The bright cafe space includes several tables and chairs for library patrons and visitors. The menu features typical and specialty espresso and coffee drinks as well as non-coffee options like tea, hot chocolate, chai and fruit smoothies. Coffee is sourced from DuBuque Coffee, while pastries come from Bridge Bread and Missouri Bakery. The staff plans to expand into lunch offerings and catered box lunches.

St. Patrick Center, a ministry of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis that combats homelessness, added the barista training program to its workforce development opportunities about a year and a half ago in response to the high demand for baristas in the St. Louis area, said Sue Haverman, St. Patrick Center director of workforce development. First, trainees learn basic coffee and customer service skills, serving St. Patrick Center staff at the center’s headquarters on Friday mornings and earning ServSafe certification. Then, they can move on to Sacred Grounds Café or seek employment at another coffee shop or cafe.

The idea of opening a cafe had been on Haverman’s mind for a while, and it felt providential when she learned that the library was looking for someone to take over the Central Cafe space. The St. Patrick Center team chose the name Sacred Grounds as a nod to both the coffee being brewed and the Lord’s presence in the work. “To me, the grounds here are sacred,” she said.

Benzon Miles, an employment navigator at St. Patrick Center, helped develop the cafe concept, drawing on his experience at Kaldi Coffee, SqWires Restaurant and Market in Lafayette Square, and Handcrafted by Bissinger’s in the Central West End. He manages the cafe, working alongside the baristas as they develop their skills.

Sacred Grounds Café employee and St. Patrick Center client Kamryn Flacke served a beverage to customer Mary Simon Dec. 21 at the cafe at St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library in St. Louis. After her time at Sacred Grounds is done, Flacke is looking forward to finding “a more permanent barista position, just somewhere I can take this skill set and use it,” she said.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
“The tenacity, the drive to come in, learn, stick to the program and work the program is something I love about our clients,” Miles said. “This (cafe) will definitely test their ability to not only display excellent customer service, but they’ll be under pressure because we’ll have lines of people who would like to have their coffee. So they’re being put through the fire.”

Miles likes seeing clients in the training program take the initiative to create new drinks. If someone has an idea, “I’ll say, ‘OK, show me what you’ve got. Go ahead and make it.’ And then we have everyone on the team try the latte, and if the latte is a hands-down winner, we’ll put it on the menu,” he said.

He pointed to the French Toast Latte, featured at Sacred Grounds Café, as an example: cinnamon dolce, hazelnut, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, espresso and steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled nutmeg.

The hope is that clients will work at Sacred Grounds for up to three months before moving on to another employment opportunity. “It gives them the hands-on training they need to be able to go to any coffee house and be a worthy employee and make the money to help them get out of whatever situation landed them in the situation they’re in now,” Miles said.

With the help of St. Patrick Center, Flacke, the barista, has moved into transitional housing for youth and young adults. After her time at Sacred Grounds is done, she’s looking forward to finding “a more permanent barista position, just somewhere I can take this skill set and use it,” she said.

Kamryn Flacke poured milk for a beverage at the Sacred Grounds Café at St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library in St. Louis. Flacke has received assistance from St. Patrick Center and went through the center’s barista training.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Sustainable housing and sustainable employment “go hand-in-hand,” said Amanda Laumeyer, CEO of St. Patrick Center. “That is why workforce development is such an important program and part of the mission of St. Patrick Center and Catholic Charities.”

St. Patrick Center was founded 40 years ago on the premise that the people they serve need a hand up, not a handout, she said. “And Sacred Grounds Café is exactly that: helping clients learn a skill, get out into the workforce and better their situation.”

Sacred Grounds Café employee and St. Patrick Center client Kamryn Flacke and café manager Benzon Miles talked at a table during a lull in customers Dec. 21.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
At a ribbon cutting for the cafe on Dec. 20, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis president and CEO Jared Bryson said he hopes the cafe can provide a place for people to come together and connect in community.

“Some of you may have heard about All Things New in the Archdiocese of St. Louis,” Bryson said. “This is part of how we want to express differently who we are in this community.”

He ended his remarks with a prayer. “Bless these Sacred Grounds — may it be a space of Your healing, help and hope in our world.”


>> Sacred Grounds Café

Located inside St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library, 1301 Olive Street in Downtown St. Louis

Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday

Follow the cafe on Instagram: @sacredgrounds.cafe

>> St. Patrick Center

St. Patrick Center, a ministry of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, was founded in 1983 to combat homelessness in the City of St. Louis and surrounding area. The ministry works to create a community where everyone has access to sustainable housing, employment and health care. To learn more, including more about the workforce development program, visit stpatrickcenter.org.


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