Gloria Galindo always wanted to open a coffee shop. “I still want to do that,” she says, “sell coffee and teas from around the world.” For now, she is sharing coffee and tea—and food—in a less entrepreneurial fashion.
As part of TPL’s Community Outreach with Resident Experts (CORE) program in Greeley, Colorado, Galindo’s role is to engage with residents who live near the city’s Delta Park as they envision what they’d like their neighborhood green space to be. Galindo (second from right, above) has worked with the quickly growing city’s Somali and Latinx immigrant populations in various capacities for over 20 years, so the job is a natural fit. “This is totally my cup of tea,” she says in all earnestness.
One of her first tasks with TPL was to conduct a survey with residents about the park, but she felt the survey itself needed community input. So she proposed what she knew would bring people together: food and drink. And the Coffee Chat Group was formed. “When you go to someone’s house, what do they do?” she asks. “They offer you something to drink.”
Initial members were recruited at a community event, where Galindo and other residents asked interested parties to sign up, but it’s spread by word of mouth since. Now, on Friday afternoons, Galindo hosts roughly a dozen community members at picnic tables in Delta Park or, if the weather is less friendly, at communal spaces in nearby apartment complexes.
The group’s efforts so far have included planning park outreach events and engagement activities to gather resident input and ideas for the park and to celebrate the neighborhood’s cultural identity through food, sports, art, and music. Galindo—who, ironically, is not a big coffee drinker herself—takes inspiration from something a pastor once told her, that coffee beans transform from the inside out. “So your power is inside of you,” she explains, adding that she wants to help Greeley residents “be the coffee bean.”
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And she’s seeing it happen, noting that community members who might be intimidated by formal interviews open up at a table together. Attendees are “really becoming empowered and using their voices,” she says. “I’ve never believed that you empower anybody. You give them the tools, and they become empowered themselves.”
For residents who live near Delta Park, the tool is conversation—which caffeine doesn’t hurt. One drink they regularly share is shaah: similar to chai, it’s flavored with ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves and served during casariya, a traditional Somali afternoon tea.
Drinking shaah and eating malawah, thin Somali pancakes that the group likes to spread with Nutella, naturally leads to talk of home. It’s not uncommon for a chat group member, many of whom are refugees, to pull out their phone and show photos of an open space back in Ethiopia, for instance, or for a Mexican immigrant to recall the beautiful gazebo at the center of the public park in their hometown.