Serving with A Purpose
WASHINGTON – Standing out as the only cafe east of the Anacostia River that has a unique, creative space where there is a fusion of art, food and conversation, the Art-Drenaline 365 Cafe is making a difference in the lives of those who are a part of the community.
Through Art-Drenaline, owner and chef, Shawn Lightfoot offers opportunity and hope to the underserved and overlooked residents of Washington D.C.
“My mission is to hire and employ people who normally wouldn’t get hired for work due to deep-rooted background issues.” Lightfoot said as he asserts his gratification in creating a business for those in the community.
Often ex-incarcerated males experience difficulty when trying to find employment. According to a report issued to the National Institute of Justice, males with a criminal record are less likely to be hired or even interviewed.
Devaughn Bell, 41, a recent business owner and a cook at the café had previously spent nine years in prison. He experienced discrimination in the labor workforce and struggled in obtaining employment because of his record. After an employer interviewed Bell and discovered he had been incarcerated that employer soon after, informed him that he could not be hired.
“If you read my resume it looked really good,” said Bell. “I had multiple job interviews, but soon as it was found out that I was felon. I didn’t get hired. This happened to me three different times.”
Lightfoot has been in a similar position which is the fuel to his passion in hiring those who have backgrounds of being incarcerated. He spent six years in prison and knows all too well the transition that people go through coming home from prison. “I could not believe it – the transition. It was the most incredibly unfortunate experience I have ever had. I don’t want other people to go through that,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot’s focus is on people and offers his café as a training facility. “If there is a program that needs to place people in jobs, I offer a culinary and hospitality option,” he said. He assists his employees in career building and start-ups.
Art-Drenaline is a community café with an intimate setting that produces a comfortable family-like atmosphere among both employees and customers. It is a place where employees enjoy working and customers enjoy coming to sit and do work on a laptop or read.
Justin Taylor, 23, has worked in the café for a little over a year and currently holds the position as manager; he did not let his past stop him from moving forward. “Shawn gave me an opportunity. Every day I wake up in the morning and actually want to come to work. I love that it feels like family – both coworkers and customers,” Taylor said.
Art-Drenaline Café has unique positioning being located inside of the Anacostia Art Center. It began as a pop-up brunch and soon after turned into a space where the community can feel like they’re in an art gallery and enjoy the art of conversation and food.
Because the café is based in a community where it is labeled as a ‘food desert’, Lightfoot not only desired to offer opportunity for those overlooked by employers, but to also bring healthier food options. The café provides meals such as fresh soups and salads, paninis and sandwiches which all include ingredients that are sourced locally and of the best quality.
Amin Law, 32, was looking for a working space with colleagues where they would be able to get a bite to eat and see some art. “I think it has the exact particular energy for a space you can work in and have conversations in. This café does a good job at creating a space where you feel comfortable,” Law said. “I would recommend this café to anyone who is interested in getting a good vibe, relax or to do work.”