"My hope is that we can slowly start to plant seeds in our community for a better way of living and a better way of treating one another.”
- Katie Kishore, Founder, Kindess Café and Play
“Whenever I describe our space, I say it is more beautiful than anything I could have imagined,” says Katie Kishore, founder and owner of Kindness Café + Play, a nonprofit coffee shop that provides meaningful employment to people with cognitive disabilities in Charlottesville.
If you’ve had the chance to visit Kindness Café, located in the lobby of Charlottesville's Brooks Family YMCA, you’ve probably felt the optimism and energy embodied by this wonderful place. If you’ve had the chance to meet their warm and gregarious staff, and see Kishore’s well-organized café, then you understand how they’ve managed a successful opening and maintained well-oiled operations even during the pandemic. But even this little café with a big heart wasn’t always destined for success.
“We really had no idea what we were doing,” shares Kishore about many of the challenges she and her nonprofit team faced early on. “We were fully under-qualified and unaware of the processes required to create and build a nonprofit coffee shop.”
That’s why in 2019 – after she was invited to operate in the lobby of the Brooks Family YMCA – Kishore turned to VMDO and the Building Goodness Foundation (BGF) for help on how to make the café come to life. BGF, a local non-profit construction organization, asked local craftspeople and suppliers to donate their time and materials to build VMDO’s design of Kindness Café.
“Everyone needs some good news right now, and we played a part in one of the best feel-good stories of the year – helping Kindness Café build their new home,” shares VMDO’s Shawn Mulligan, architect and one of the Design Corps team members who led VMDO’s pro-bono design efforts. “We work with partners like the Building Goodness Foundation who are community resources that bring together really talented contractors, tradespeople, and engineers to solve problems for community organizations and help make Charlottesville a better place to live.”
VMDO’s Design Corps coordinates staff to focus time and energy into the most impactful projects in our community. “Kindness Café was a perfect project for us,” says Mulligan.
The key community-focused organizations that donated time and materials to help make Charlottesville a kinder place included:
- Piedmont Family YMCA (parent of the Brooks Family YMCA facility)
- Building Goodness Foundation
- Lead Design: VMDO
- MEP Engineers: 2RW
- General Contractors: Shelter Associates
- Cabinetry: Worthington Millwork
- Stone Flooring: Sarisand Tile (donated material) with Ceiling & Floor Shop (installation)
- Countertops: Cosentino (donated material), with Albemarle Countertops (fabrication / installation)
- Electric: Safe-Way Electric
- Plumbing: L&D Associates
- Signage: Gropen
- Coffee Equipment/Consulting: Grit Coffee
“We're very transparent about the fact that none of this would have happened without our community partners and the huge role that VMDO played,” says Kishore. “And we're really grateful for that whole team of people, but certainly VMDO was the first in and probably the last out in terms of getting the project going and bringing it to completion.”
Kindness Cafe is both a place and a way to live, says Kishore, striving to be the friendliest coffee shop in Charlottesville while providing a space where people can learn from the amazing staff. The café is open Monday through Saturday 8:00am-2:00pm and has a handy website for online ordering and safe, curbside pick-up at the YMCA.