Cafe Esperanza Brings Hope to those Facing Food Insecurity in Reading

​For Pastor Mary Wolfe, opening the doors of Cafe Esperanza to the Reading community is a dream come to fruition.

Based on the model provided by nonprofit organization One World, Everybody Eats (OWEE), Cafe Esperanza is a pay-what-you-can cafe serving delicious cuisine.

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All OWEE-affiliated cafes operate with the same seven core tenets: social enterprise, guests determine what they can pay, everyone is welcome, space for community, opportunity to volunteer, and excellent food.

​Having served as the pastor of Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Reading for over fifteen years, Pastor Wolfe wanted to be able to use the church-owned row home across the street for a purpose that would bless the surrounding community.

After learning about OWEE and attending several of their conferences, Pastor Wolfe decided to begin the process of transforming the row home into Cafe Esperanza, which means “hope” in Spanish.

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​Opening the cafe has proven to be a family affair, as Pastor Wolfe’s daughter Emily Wolfe serves as the Hospitality Manager for the location. She shared that, while the pandemic certainly changed many of their plans regarding opening the cafe, they have been very blessed.

“[The] Berks Cares Act reimbursed us for pandemic expenses,” she said, noting that they were still able to serve a delicious and healthy meal to around 200 people once a week outdoors over the last several months. One of the many unique features of Cafe Esperanza is that they offer meals to go and various meal options, which enables people to feed their entire family at home with what they choose. “We really strive for hospitality,” said Wolfe. “There is a real dignity in choice and in bounty.”

​Cafe Esperanza only employs two paid staff members, Emily Wolfe and the head chef/kitchen manager Angelique Gilyard, and relies on trained volunteers for the rest of their staffing needs.

Eventually, one of the things that will distinguish the cafe from similar nonprofits is their sale of high-end espresso drinks, which will be made by volunteers who took a special barista training course.

When looking to the future of Cafe Esperanza, Wolfe is encouraged by the sense of community that has already been established this year. “The point is not so much the food, but creating community over the food,” she said. “People really have trusted us and formed relationships with us.

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Emily Fitzpatrick Kenniston
Emily Fitzpatrick Kenniston
I cover news on small businesses and local events.
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