Q: What’s your occupation? Explain your career, your accomplishments and professional highlights.
A: I am the executive director of the FoCo Cafe, a nonprofit restaurant located in Old Town Fort Collins. We operate on a pay-what-you-can scale, and we encourage those who are able to pay it forward. We also empower community members to pay with their time and talent by volunteering in exchange for a meal. At FoCo Cafe, we center our mission around community, sustainability and, of course, delicious food. We use as much locally sourced, organic, donated produce as possible and work hard to serve all members of our community with standard, vegetarian, gluten free and vegan options, regardless of their financial position.
Q: Tell us about yourself, your history and how you came to be where you are now.
A: I’ve lived in Colorado since I was four years old and grew up in the suburbs south of Denver. In August 2017, I moved to Fort Collins to attend Colorado State University. I graduated from CSU in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies and a concentration in leadership and entrepreneurial professions. I’ve worked in small restaurants since I was 16, gaining front-of-house and managerial experience, and when I heard about FoCo Cafe, I knew it was the perfect place to apply what I knew about restaurant management while diving head-first into the nonprofit world.
Occupation: Executive director of FoCo Cafe
Q: Tell us something unique about you.
A: I come from a rather unique family. I have two siblings: An older sister and a twin brother who both identify as transgender. I myself identify as nonbinary. Growing up with such brave and beautiful individuals cemented in me the importance of acceptance and love for others, especially when society is unwelcoming or even hostile to folks because of the very things that make them wonderful and unique.
Q: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment, either professionally or personally?
A: My biggest accomplishment, as I see it, is using my privilege and the resources at my disposal to empower individuals who have been disenfranchised or who do not have adequate access to the resources necessary for their wellbeing and success. If I can make a meaningful, positive difference in just one person’s life every day, then I have accomplished what matters most.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?
A: In five years, I hope to have strengthened FoCo Cafe’s position as a community hub where folks of all different backgrounds and identities can connect with each other, sharing their stories and lived experiences over a delicious meal (or two or three). In 10 years, I hope to have created my own nonprofit organization that serves transitioning young adults by providing a platform for connecting with others, exchanging gender-affirming clothing and providing community support.
Q: What piece(s) of advice would you give to your younger self?
A: I would tell my younger self that the best lies ahead. No matter how hard times are for you, they will make you stronger and more resilient than you ever imagined was possible. Focus on what’s important: Loving and helping others. And don’t worry about whether you are performing to everyone’s restrictive expectations. You have your own unique beauty and strength, and it will serve you well in the years ahead.
Q: How did you decide that FOCO Cafe was the perfect place to start your career in nonprofit work?
A: FoCo Cafe gave me the opportunity to apply everything I learned from years of working in and managing restaurants while learning everything that I could about nonprofits. I have been immensely fortunate to learn what running a nonprofit entails, and I am grateful for the incredible team that I have backing me up to make sure that FoCo Cafe can continue to feed our community for many years to come. I could not be more proud of the food that we serve and our mission behind it.
Q: What are some of the most fulfilling aspects of your job?
A: The most fulfilling parts of my role at FoCo Cafe are three-fold:
Getting to watch members of our community with vastly different backgrounds and identities engage in meaningful conversations with each other, leaving all parties with a greater sense of community, understanding and diversity of thought.
Hearing from folks who come in (sometimes every day) to volunteer in exchange for their meal regarding the sense of pride, dignity and accomplishment they feel after making a meaningful contribution to the community in exchange for their lunch. And seeing how much they appreciate having an accessible restaurant experience that does not ostracize them for not having the means to make a financial contribution in exchange for their food.
Bringing new people in to try our food for the first time and see what a wonderful, welcoming and inclusive place FoCo Cafe is. There is a misconception surrounding FoCo Cafe that we are only here to serve folks who could use a hand up. When people come in for the first time and see that we are a high-quality restaurant that also happens to have incredible offerings to help members of our community who need it most, they keep coming back.