PORT TOWNSEND — The sounds of fiddle and guitar, courtesy of buskers Alea Waters and Lang Russel, floated into the warm air. Walking up to the front porch, people smiled at each other from behind their cloth masks, and then Brian Richardson invited everybody in for announcements and a free, just-made lunch.
This is the Recovery Cafe, a place nearly two years in the making, at 939 Kearney St., across from The ReCyclery bike shop.
Richardson is the manager of the Dove House program who has reached a joyful point on a long trek along with his fellow staffers. Like its counterparts around the country, the Recovery Cafe is a community of people who are in recovery from trauma, addiction, unhealthy relationships, homelessness or any other life struggle.
“Everybody is recovering from something,” said Benjamin Casserd, who staffed the reception desk at lunch time last Thursday.
The cafe is open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to noon — with free breakfast — every Friday.
In May, Thursday’s hours will expand to noon to 3 p.m.
“All are welcome here,” Casserd added, as the roomful of conversations created a low roar.
Dove House Advocacy Services, a resource center for people affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes, purchased the building in 2019 and held an open house in July of that year.
The space was ideal, Richardson said, with its kitchen and location on Jefferson Transit’s city shuttle route.
“It needed a lot of work — more than we realized going into it,” he said.
Remodeling was finished in fall 2020, but by then, in-person, recovery-circle gatherings and meals could not take place there.
“If you had to design something to make recovery difficult, it would be a pandemic,” Richardson said.
For several months, Richardson used the Recovery Cafe as an operations center for virtual group meetings and for checking in with people via phone calls and text messages. Those helped people feel connected, he said.
But Richardson felt great relief when Jefferson County entered Phase 3 of the state’s Roadmap to Recovery plan, allowing the cafe crew to serve meals on site and to have up to 22 people inside the building.
During lunch last Thursday, Richardson counted exactly 22 members of this new community.
“This is what we envisioned,” he said.
They included women and men of various ages and a couple with service dogs by their sides.
Richardson made announcements about the cafe’s offerings, including a mixed group, groups for men and for women, a Buddhist meditation group and a relationship skills class.
Anyone can become a member of the community by arriving at the door clean and sober and by giving back, Richardson added.
Before lunch Thursday, Dove House advocate Annie Lovato signed people up for specific tasks on that front — wiping down windows and tables, sweeping and mopping, kitchen cleanup. The crowd cheered as cafe members volunteered.
There was also silence. In honor of Anthony, a friend of the cafe community who had died, the group stayed quiet together for three minutes.
Next came the random acts of kindness shoutout. One man had been treated to a free meal at a restaurant, courtesy of someone he met at the downtown Port Townsend Welcoming Center. A woman had reunited with her lost dog thanks to the man, who gave her a lift to the animal shelter.
Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to Sean Newton, a kitchen volunteer.
Then: “We’ve got tostadas and tortilla soup coming out,” Richardson called as more volunteers carried loaded plates and bowls to the tables.
“We’re not counselors. We’re not therapists,” said Michael McCutcheon, maker of the soup.
At this cafe, recovery circles are like support groups. There’s no reading to do and no hierarchy; the goals are a sense of community and safety.
To extend that safety during the pandemic, face coverings are required inside the cafe except when seated and eating. Richardson hopes for a day when everyone has been vaccinated and masks are a thing of the past.
“At least one of our circles is fully vaccinated,” he said.
Richardson and the Dove House crew are encouraging everyone to get COVID-19 shots, although they understand those who hesitate.
“Some of population we’re working with is skeptical of authority and pharmaceuticals, which is understandable, considering the experiences they’ve had.”
With more people immunized — and with more funding from grants and donations — the cafe could expand its activities, serve more meals and even be open all week long, Richardson said.
“That would be my dream,” he said.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.