BENNINGTON, Vt. (NEWS10) — The Bennington Community Café is a gathering place, serving everyone, especially those most in need in the community. All café items are pay-what-you-wish, which includes paying nothing at all, said volunteer organizer Jack Rossiter-Munley.
The café started at the beginning of 2023, with the first session being held on January 14. Since then, the café has been held every Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Greater Bennington Community Services at 121 Depot Street.
The café started because of a conversation that began in the Justice Reading Group, said Rossiter-Munley. The group, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington, meets each month to discuss different books about social justice issues.
During one of the discussions, group members found out that the Community Coffee Pot program run by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church might not return for the winter. Members from both St. Peter’s and the UU Fellowship decided to make sure their were enough volunteers so the program could stay active.
Rossiter-Munley, café organizer, Loraine Donatelli, and café volunteer Nancy Sanford then met with the Executive Director of Greater Bennington Community Services (GBCS) to find out if we could have the Community Coffee Pot there.
“While we were at GBCS for that meeting, we saw that there were sandwich board signs, similar to those that are often in front of cafés,” said Rossiter-Munley. “It was right at the end of that meeting that we started talking about something more than just serving coffee. What if we could organize cooks and bakers and have a real café?”
The Bennington Community Café has a new menu each week which always includes coffee, but could also have other drinks, empanadas, soup, sandwiches, and cookies, just to name a few. The menu is posted to their Facebook page each week. The café also provides other non-food items such as clothing and hygiene products.
The food at the café is made by community members, said Rossiter-Munley, and the café depends on donations to stay up and running. The café accepts donations from the two churches, as well as anyone else who would like to donate. “Every cent goes right back into the café itself,” said Rossiter-Munley.
“We have already had café sessions in single digit temperatures and during snow storms,” said Rossiter-Munley. “If the organizers and volunteers can safely make it to the café we’ll be open rain or shine. We are hoping that, in time, we can expand our hours.”
In the two months the Bennington Community Café has been open, Rossiter-Munley said several good stories and things have come of it. A new narcotics anonymous group has formed in Bennington. Someone donated $80 after hearing about the café because at one point he was unhoused. A young boy came to visit by himself, chatted with one of the other patrons and a volunteer, and was able to bring some food home to his family.
“All café volunteers commit themselves to: being non-judgmental, finding ways to support the independence and humanity of all patrons, and adhering to the platinum rule– treating others now how they want to be treated,” said Rossiter-Munley.
If you would like to find out more about the café, volunteer or donate, you can send an email to BenningtonCommunityCafe@gmail.com.