For the last several months, we’ve been focusing on acts of kindness and charitable giving. Since we’ve had giving on the mind, we decided to seek out a local nonprofit business, doing their part! We interviewed Rachel Bloom, founder of UpLife and Happy Cup, about her unique nonprofit businesses! Read more to find out what they’re about!
What is Happy Cup? What is UpLife? How do they interact?
“Happy Cup Coffee and UpLife are separate organizations but are affiliated with each other. Both were started by me, Rachel Bloom, and my husband, Scott Rector, as a way “to champion people with potential.” I had taught special education for many years, and was appalled to learn that opportunities for young adults with developmental disabilities were practically non-existent once they turned 21. That’s why we started a company to do job training and job placement services. In 2010,we started Happy Cup Coffee, a business incubator and social enterprise company, with the purpose of providing jobs for people with developmental disabilities. Coffee sales have grown every year, and we currently have 75+ people on Happy Cup’s payroll, working as baristas at City Hall and Killingsworth cafes and packaging coffee at our roaster on NE Sandy. We also donate Happy Cup profits to their new non-profit UpLife.”
What sort of programs does UpLife offer?
“We have always provided arts and recreation programs, as “everyone has a need to be creative and express themselves.” But due to State funding cuts, these were being cut. That’s why we founded the non-profit UpLife to fill the gap.”
“UpLife’s mission is to provide arts, multi-media, and theater programming for adults with developmental disabilities. We recently opened UpLife Community Arts Center on NE Killingsworth. We offer an open studio format in painting, clay, and sewing and operate Monday through Saturday. People of all ages and abilities are welcome. There aren’t many community centers on the east side, and we hope that UpLife will become a community gathering place for the residents of NE Portland.”
How is UpLife unique?
“We are unique, because all of our programs are integrated. So someone working on a sewing project could be sharing the space with someone who has a disability. That’s the beauty of it. Ordinary people will drop in, meet someone with a disability, and discover that “They are just like us!” They want a job, friends, a social life.”
What is one of the most popular projects in UpLife’s creative program?
“One project that everyone loves is our UpLife tote bags, which we sell to support the program. These bags are made by people with disabilities from recycled burlap coffee bean bags and donated fabric. At UpLife, we reuse and recycle EVERYTHING! “
What is a simple act of kindness that anyone can do?
“What act of kindness can anyone do? That’s easy. Volunteer, make a donation, or buy a tote bag. UpLife welcomes cash and in-kind donations of household items, furniture, art supplies and used clothing.”