Global Delights: Brewing a better Community
The Register Guard
By: Matthew Dennis
Dec 25, 2018
It’s curious driving through this town. Utilitarian brown walls, uniform gray block and innocuous red brick slip by too fast to describe what toil unfolds inside. The bank, the grocery store, the auto repair shop—all of these common to the world in which we live, but only significant to our own private experience.
The coffee stand is a common set piece to this landscape. Queues of anonymous cars wait for workers inside tiny huts to provide a daily caffeinated ration. Every day, these businesses serve a large percentage of Eugene’s working and student
population, but few in line know who the other is. The coffee stand is a gathering place where people rarely gather.
One man, however, has made it his mission to fortify these gossamer lines that connect us. Michael Lambros is owner of the Global Delights coffee kiosk at River Road and Hilliard Lane. The kiosk gives about four dollars out of every pound of organic roasted coffee sold to local school and neighborhood institutions to support and uplift citizens of the River Road community. With over $20,000 donated since 2015, tangible progress has been made.
“I originally bought the kiosk as a vehicle in order to fund the community organizations that need it,” Lambros said. “It’s a social mechanism to create more social structure.”
Before opening the coffee stand, Lambros served as a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef in Brazil, Los Angeles, Maui and Eugene. In his travels, Lambros observed the tremendous embodied energy necessary to deliver food to patrons’ tables and the enormous waste of food that accompanied this service.
“That’s led to the Global Delights motto: ‘On a mission to awaken the world,’” Lambros said. “I bought the kiosk in 2010. In 2014, we started roasting our own 100-percent organic coffee. And once the roastery was up and running, we started the program.”
Lambros is a strange contradiction: high-minded and humble, almost incessantly active in River Road, but with noiseless contributions that only but a few people recognize.
“He’s just the nicest, most unassuming guy,” said Terri Johnson, Kelly Middle School office manager. “At first, we were like, who is this person and why is he giving us a check? Now we send him a thank you note at least a couple of times a year.”
Three dollars from each pound of Global Delights coffee sold goes to enable special projects in River Road schools. At Kelly, the middle school devotes Global Delights tender to improving digital access for the 400 or so students at the school. Through Eugene 4J district bond money, the school provides one-to-one student iPads, but lacked the apps to support specific curricula.
“Math and Spanish teachers were able to supplement their teaching with apps where students can apply their learning,” Johnson said.
Lambros is very present in the community, providing coffee, for example, at Spanish-language concerts at River Road/El Camino del Río Elementary School. Few attendees know, though, that Global Delights helps to pay for these shows.
“Michael is always there and all the teachers know his name,” Principal Joel Lavin said. “These events are part of the school experience at Camino del Río and Global Delights adds to our cultural funds account.”
Lambros may be reserved, but he is not reticent. Ask him why he does what he does, and Lambros speaks of his professional responsibility.
“The word chef derives from the word for chief. The chef is the ambassador, the person who keeps an eye on maintaining the sustenance and survival of the environment,” Lambros said.
Preserving a community means supporting its present so that people may contribute to its future. For River Road schools, this means buttressing some of the lowest-income students in the district. Fifty-six percent of North Eugene High School’s students, for example, qualify for free/reduced lunch.
The money that they’ve received from Global Delights since December 2015 often goes to assist students who need help purchasing school products, says finance manager Michelle Ashenfelter.
What Global Delights donates is especially significant because it’s not earmarked for any particular program or commensurate to a fluctuating school population. Lambros just shows up with his check every month that gives schools an opportunity to fund special projects. North Eugene High’s special education students, for instance, are starting a coffee cart to help buy program supplies. And third-grade students at Howard Elementary School receive funding for their garden.
“The kids love the garden,” Principal Alan Chinn said. “We can send home the vegetables with the kids who work on it. And we even have chickens too!”
These experiential programs are integral to connecting classroom learning with real world experience, opening student eyes to opportunities beyond school walls.
In addition to helping students at neighborhood schools, a dollar from each pound of coffee sold goes to supply the youth scholarship fund at the River Road Park & Recreation District.
“We’ve used the money for camps, for swim lessons, for pre-K programs,” said Cathy Casalegno, recreation director. “Michael’s been really helpful. This includes sponsoring our summer concert series.”
The summer concert series at the River Road Park & Recreation District draws hundreds of diverse and varied residents together to celebrate where they live. And the series is not possible without donations from businesses like Global Delights.
When Lambros is not roasting coffee or participating in a neighborhood function, he can often be found sowing organizational bonds to uplift and up keep River Road. This includes a collaboration with the city to enhance the Hillcrest section of River Road’s riverfront, working with the Willamette River Keepers organization to clean trash from the River Road section of the river and creating a neighborhood emergency management program with the Red Cross and local schools.
“These projects are like sloops that we’ve sending out to begin our mission while the main battleship is constructed,” Lambros said. “Our hope and goal is to continue to expand these programs to make them larger and broader.”