RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - What used to be a gas station on Nine Mile Road in Church Hill is now a charming cafe.
However, the Front Porch Cafe offers a lot more than what you see on the menu. It offers a safe space, training, and most importantly, hope for an entire community.
Tiana Mitchell stays busy here at the Front Porch Cafe, doing a little bit of everything. Frankly, that's the way she likes it.
"The environment is great. I love everyone here; I feel like family," said Mitchell.
Technically, the 16-year-old is family. She is a student at CHAT, which stands for Church Hill Activities and Tutoring.
The nonprofit organization runs several schools and community programs, including workforce development. This new cafe is an extension of that program.
"We had the idea of starting a cafe that would be a training ground for young people to learn valuable job skills, and would be a place for the entire community to come together around shared fellowship, to eat and taste the accessible food at affordable prices for the entire community," said CHAT chief development officer Jonathan Chan.
Three students and three alums of the program manage the day-to-day operations of the café, which is filled with colorful pictures, artwork, and clothing from CHAT students.
Even the table tops were crafted by students enrolled in the organization's Nehemiah's Workshop program.
Charles Bolling II grew up in Church Hill and completed several CHAT programs.
He moved back to the neighborhood a few months ago and now, proudly serves as the cafe's barista.
"It's always important to give back to your neighborhood. I feel like the places that you grew up in sort of like mold you and build your character, and it's always good to give back to places that have given to you," said Bolling.
And the Front Porch Cafe hopes to give a space to the community that not only helps to fill the stomach, but possibly the soul.
"I feel like everyone will come together and come here and feel like they can be safe and happy," said Mitchell.
The Front Porch Cafe is part of a complex at the Bon Secours Center for Healthy Living. The cafe is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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