In a storefront on West Belmont Avenue in Chicago, Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health turns a latte into a healing hug. The non-profit was founded in 2019 by Christopher LeMark to provide free therapy to those who can’t afford it, especially in Black neighborhoods. The cafe serves as the organization’s headquarters and main source of fundraising.
Specialty lattes such as Queen Latifah’s Chai and Diddy’s Cappuccino make donating to the effort tasty as well as rewarding. All of the cafe’s specialty lattes are named after hip-hop artists, aligning the drinks with the vibe of the musician. The most popular is Beyonce’s Honey & Lavender, followed closely by Rihanna’s Coconut & Cinnamon.
“My personal favorite is Biggie’s Brown Sugar & Cayenne Latte,” said Cafe Manager Kristen Prodehl. “I love the spicy/sweet combo.” The most unusual? Foamy Cold Brew and Lemonade. “Everyone is always surprised by how tasty the pairing is,” she said. Also on the menu: Their popular Cinnamon Roll Danish or the Dave Chappelle Dirty Chai Latte.
The cafe considers every purchase, from coffee to pastries to merchandise, a donation, according to Prodehl. “A small portion of that pays for the operation of the cafe itself and the remainder is what funds our Free Therapy Program,” she said. Specialty lattes are priced at $10 while all other drinks are served on a “Choose Your Price” basis. And on Fridays, there’s free coffee drinks to those who can’t afford them thanks to their “Virtual Latte” program where individuals can donate in person or online.
The cafe also serves as a community safe space and is the location for four weekly therapy groups: Yoga & Meditation, Women’s Group Therapy, Men’s Group Therapy, and Entrepreneur’s Group Therapy. The organization also provides individual scholarships for 20 private sessions.
“We currently have 110 people going through our Free Therapy Program, which is going to cost the organization $220,000 over the next few months,” explained Prodehl. “Whether you can only donate $10 that day or you’re able to sponsor multiple therapy sessions, you’re helping us to bring awareness to the importance of mental health and provide free therapy to those in need.”
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