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Prodigy Coffeehouse primarily employs residents in northeast Denver neighborhoods. Photograph courtesy of Hillary Frances / Prodigy Coffeehouse

4 Denver Coffee Shops Doing Good For Their Communities

After Ink Coffee’s pro-gentrification sign debacle, we’re spotlighting four java joints that are impacting positive local change.

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Back in November, Ink Coffee unveiled what turned out to be a very ill-advised sign outside of its Five Points location that read, in part: “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.” It effectively set Ink apart from other Denver coffee shops, though not in a good way.

Here, we look to four local coffeehouses at the other end of the spectrum—ones that are working to bring positive change to their respective communities. Because if you’re going to splurge on a cup of joe, you might as well do it at a place with purpose.

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Prodigy Coffeehouse

Ever since Stephanie Frances opened Prodigy Coffeehouse in a small garage off 40th Street in July 2016, the nonprofit craft coffeeshop has worked hard for its northeast Denver community. As of publication, Prodigy has hired 22 at-risk young adults from the neighborhood through its barista apprenticeship program, in which new-hires spend a year earning a living wage and gaining real-world job experience at the shop. Bonus: The coffee, sourced locally from Allegro, is fantastic. 3801 East 40th Ave., 720-441-3187

Purple Door Coffee

Four-and-a-half years ago, Madison Chandler and Mark Smesrud opened Purple Door, a nonprofit java joint in Five Points geared toward providing job experience to young adults trying to find their way out of homelessness. In some cases, employees spent years living on Denver’s streets before being hired to work in the shop for either six- or 12-month stints. And of the 22 people Purple Door has employed, Smesrud says 18 have progressed out of homelessness; one of them, Sateva Walling, was even hired on as a shift manager. Coffee purists should opt for Purple Door’s pour over, made with the shop’s regularly rotating selection of beans. 2962 Welton St., 720-515-6639

Steamers Coffeehouse

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This Arvada-based coffeehouse hires adults living with developmental disabilities to create its line of artisan preserves, A Different Kind of Jam, as well as pies and other desserts that can be purchased on-site or online. Since its opening in 2007, owners Athan and Jack Miller have been dedicated to providing useful job experience for community members who might not find it elsewhere. Steamers’ developmentally disabled employees do their work in the Steamers prep kitchen, where they are taught the basics of working in a professional kitchen and perform tasks specifically tailored for their strengths. Be sure to try the Peach Jam, which is made with Palisade peaches, or check out Steamers’ popular green chile jam if you’re looking for something with a little more kick. 8565 Five Parks Drive, Suite 100, Arvada, 303-456-7624

Strong, Smart, & Bold Beans

Strong, Smart, & Bold Beans is the first program of its kind in the Mile High City. The coffee shop is run by Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering young women, and the baristas behind the counter are all involved in Girls Inc. initiatives. As a requirement, these women have to maintain a G.P.A. above 2.5 and take business classes through Girls Inc. The goal: to provide these young women the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and small business while creating a means of economic independence. Go for the signature hot chocolate to warm yourself up sans caffeine. 1401 Zuni St., located in the Steam on the Platte development, 303 893-4363

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