At FosterAdopt Connect, we’re constantly looking for innovative ways to serve children and families across all of our communities. We have had a presence in Kansas City, KS, for several years now, and are fortunate to work out of the beautiful, historic Kansan newspaper building. Since moving in, we have renovated several spaces to serve specific programs, like a Sammy’s Window clothing closet/food and offices for programs like Behavioral Interventionist and Adopt Kansas Kids.
However, we still had space to work with, and lo and behold, an idea was brewing. Randy Ross, husband of Lori Ross, our founder and CEO, has spent his professional life in the food and beverage industry. However, his greatest passion is caring for youth in foster care (Lori and Randy have fostered more than 400 youth and adopted 23) and he wanted to find a way to spend the rest of his career working more directly with kids. Inspired by The Monkey & The Elephant in Philadelphia, Randy and Lori began working on the concept of a coffee shop/café that would not only serve delicious food and drinks, but would directly impact the lives of youth aging out of foster care.
Introducing: Connect Café.
Connect Café is much more than just a coffee shop. We employ youth who are about to or who have aged out of foster care, or who have otherwise been a part of the child welfare system. Often overlooked, youth who age out of care experience a high rate of homelessness, incarceration, and teen pregnancy if they don’t have the necessary supports to guide them into adulthood. Connect Café exists to be a part of that support.
Our employees are paid a living wage while also going through a program that teaches them work and life skills and connects them with job opportunities after completion. Jeff Lavy, the Connect Café Program Manager, works daily with our youth to develop these skills, act as an encouragement and be a listening ear. And our Chef Lon Froneberger did an incredible job coming up with a wide array of sandwiches, breakfast items, and baked goods for them to serve and learn to cook.
Along with this, youth participating in the Connect Café program have access to a wide variety of other services and supports we offer that they can access after graduating from the program. As Randy says, “we’re in this for life.”
After months of construction and menu formulation, Connect Café held its grand opening on Oct 5, 2022. Espresso steamed, milk frothed, sandwiches were assembled, and cheerful chatter filled the restaurant space. The Mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, Tyrone Garner, even made an appearance, as did DCF Deputy Secretary Tanya Keys. And even though the event was a huge success, it’s only going to get better from here.
We have the pleasure of partnering with several local businesses and artisans in the Kansas City area. We use beans from Messenger Coffee, and their staff train our baristas. We carry items from André’s, Christopher Elbow Chocolates, Good Vibes Apothecary, Eagle Products, and several others. And, most importantly, the youth we work with are taking steps toward a bright future.
Thank you to everyone who has generously helped us get Connect Café up and running. We couldn’t have done it, or any of the other work we do, without you. And to everyone else: if you’re ever in Kansas City, KS, stop by for a cup!