Kids serving coffee at Birch Bay through job training program

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Young volunteers at the Bridge Community Hope Center started serving coffee to the Birch Bay community on November 4.

Bridge volunteers began a training program at the beginning of October to teach teenagers hands-on professional development for future jobs. After a month of learning to steam milk and handle cash, the 16 volunteers are now serving community members at The Bridge Coffee Bar, located within the community center at 4815 Alderson Road.

The teenagers serve everything from $1 coffee and tea to $3 mocha and caramel macchiato in 12 ounce cups, or 16 ounce for 25-50 cents more, depending on the drink.

Lori Morrison is one of two baristas who trains the volunteers in pairs during two-hour sessions on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays every week.

“They all impress me because they’ve done it so well,” Morrison said. “Pretty much off the bat, all of them did amazing. They’re quick learners.”

Morrison said the coffee bar was slammed with orders the weekend before the youth were slated to start on-the-job training, but the trainees stepped into their new roles and made 15 orders. “They just stepped in and did it,” she said.

The café gives community members the opportunity to learn more about the Bridge’s center, which also provides food distribution, a boutique for residents with financial constraints, and amenities for remote learning, Morrison said. Drinks can be ordered to-go or patrons can relax at the tables and couches in the café’s indoor seating.

Shekinah Bowers, an 18-year-old Blaine resident who attends Bellingham Technical College, said the program has created a comfortable work environment as she works to overcome anxiety in a job setting.

“It’s mostly the mind part that has been the most valuable part for me and how to keep myself calm with my anxiety to actually have a job in the future,” Bowers said.

Bowers and Micah Theragood, a 13-year-old trainee, said their favorite part was learning how to make their favorite Starbucks drinks.

“I thought it would be cool for my first job when I actually got old enough to work at Starbucks or Woods, it would be a good idea to do this,” Theragood said.

The young baristas said the most popular drinks are milkshakes for adolescents and Americanos for adults.

“When they’re buying from us, it’s not like they’re buying from Starbucks or a Woods,” Bowers said. “It’s buying from youth who are learning.”

Bowers said there are still some drinks she’s learning to make so she’ll ask Morrison for advice.

“It’s my coffee bar and I’m just showing them how to run it,” said Morrison, who added there will always be an adult supervising. “Now the youth are going to make the drinks, and I’ll sit back and make sure they’ll make them right.”

Theragood said his favorite memory has been hanging out with friends while learning new skills, while Bowers has enjoyed getting to know customers and hearing about their days.

Bowers said she’s seen customers who are hesitant to try the coffee, but are happily surprised with the end result.

“They could be doing so many other things but they’ve chosen to come here and serve,” said Rosemary Connors, executive assistant to the director at The Bridge Community Hope Center. “It blesses my heart.”

The coffee bar is open 2-5 p.m. Wednesdays, 2:30-4 p.m. Thursdays, 1-5 p.m. Fridays and 1-4 p.m. Saturdays. For more info, visit thebridgehope.com.

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