Claremont is now home to a one-of-a-kind coffee shop that puts the community first, and profits last. Since its grand opening in May, Sanctuary Coffee has donated 13,000 pounds of food to the homeless in San Bernardino County.
Sanctuary Coffee is a faith-based, non-profit organization that serves fair trade coffee and tea to the community of Claremont and its surrounding cities.
“The definition of sanctuary is a safe space,” founder and executive director Steve Gerali said.
“We wanted to have a place that can enhance people’s lives and give back to the community while helping reconcile some justice issues and heal some social concerns.”
Gerali came up with the idea of Sanctuary when he was leading a mentor group of young men as a professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University. Four years later, the idea became a reality.
“One hundred percent of our profit goes to three charities: Ability First, Every ONE Free, and Inland Valley Hope Partners. Our tip jars also get donated to a different project every month,” Gerali said.
Each project they donate to has a different role in helping the community.
Ability First creates social programs for children with disabilities and employment programs for disabled adults.
Every ONE Free is dedicated to spreading awareness about human trafficking in Pomona and Inland Valley, and supporting fair traded goods.
Inland Valley Hope Partners provide homeless shelters and food pantries throughout East Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
Wild Goose Coffee, Sanctuary Coffee’s broker, donates ten pounds of food for every pound of coffee sold, which is given directly to Inland Valley Hope.
“I’ve always had this tug and pull for something outside of myself and I think Sanctuary does that and in a way that we can never do on our own,” barista and Azusa Pacific University senior Chelsey Marazita said.
“Like the aspect of giving away food for every pound of coffee; in some way, we are helping impact the lives of others and that is something I hold very near and dear to my heart.”
Sanctuary Coffee serves over ten different ethically traded coffees from different regions around the world, contributing to the global economy while making sure farmers get a fair wage.
They also have a variety of specialty teas, lattes, and pastries for customers to enjoy. This month, they will be launching two seasonal lattes: the “Smashing Pumpkins” latte and fall Aztec tea cinnamon latte.
“I hope that the customers feel that they are a part of this mission; that by purchasing coffee or drinks here customers are participating as well and the coffee they are buying is having a real impact on others’ lives,” barista Matt Vangent said.
Sanctuary also emphasizes on connecting with its customers; they are given loyalty cards that allow them to get one coffee free after buying 10.
If the customer gets a barista’s initials four times in a row and the barista doesn’t know their name, that person gets a free coffee.
“We’re not looking to run people out as fast as we can–we want you to stay all day, we want to know your name,” Gerali said.
“We got a lot more space, and we got bigger tables, and we’ve got an endless cup of coffee, so students can enjoy a gourmet cup of coffee all day long.”
Mike Gerbrandt, a student/teacher at Life Pacific College, visits Sanctuary every Tuesday and Thursday to do schoolwork.
“I like how it’s really friendly, and the connectivity is great. Generally at a Starbucks or at a corporate coffeehouse where people keep more to themselves, but here it’s really open and people are really willing to share a bit of this and that of their lives.”
The Sanctuary Coffee space is split up into three sections: the outdoor patio, the indoor seating area, and the second floor art gallery.
Although she likes the two-floor expansion of the coffee shop, Lizbeth German, sophomore child development major at ULV, preferred to enjoy her food outdoors.
The patio was where she liked to be, and the mural surrounding the shop’s doors added to the appeal.
The outdoor mural was painted by Los Angeles-based artist Darren Inouye, whose paintings will be featured in Sanctuary’s winter art gallery this month.
Sanctuary will be having two other galleries with other local artists, as well as featuring local students for its final gallery of the year.
Gerali also plans to launch a concert series in the future, featuring local music artists on Friday nights.
“I’m looking forward to the Friday nights when this place would be filled with music,” Marazita said.
“It will bring in a whole new crowd that would share their love for music the way we share our love for the community here at Sanctuary.”
Mulan Novilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.