“Milagros” means miracles. We were blessed enough to happen upon a unique coffee shop bearing this name in the charming town of Alamosa, Colorado. Darren and I needed to find a place to use the Internet before heading out to camp for the night, and a local referred us to Milagros because he knew they had that to offer. When we arrived it seemed just like any other with the typical offerings of teas and coffees, muffins and scones; but as I stood waiting for my iced chai I began to look around at the variety of merchandise. One of the first things that caught my eye were the coffee cups from Ten Thousand Villages, a nationwide chain of fair trade stores with which I am very familiar. This piqued my interest immediately. Then I noticed a sign stating: “All profits support La Puente’s emergency food, shelter, and homeless prevention programs.” How cool is that? La Puente also serves the community in many other ways, including a thrift shop, free clothing, an after school program, food bank, and community gardens.
Milagros was started in the late 90′s by the same people as La Puente, to bring in funding and reach out to the community by providing jobs and sustainable skills for those with a history of homelessness or a lack of work experience. The San Luis Valley was having a difficult time because there were absolutely no jobs available. In fact, they faced unemployment rates as much as three times the average of Colorado. La Puente’s members had a strong desire to equip locals with training in punctuality, food service, computer skills, and customer service. They collected donated goods such as couches, ovens, refrigerators, tables, chairs, mugs and were on track to open shop in March of 1998. Well, here’s where the very appropriate name Milagros comes in! One month before the scheduled opening, a health inspector declared the coffee house unfit for business. The public health code required commercial appliances costing around $10,000 total. La Puente’s board members felt that they simply could not ask for more donations since they had already sought this type of help from many groups and individuals. They had no choice but to abandon the project. The coffeehouse would need a miracle. (I hope you’re on the edge of your seat like I was as I learned this story…) Well, that miracle would come three days later, on Valentine’s Day, when the Colorado Lottery conducted their annual drawing to support a nonprofit. The nominees came from individuals all over the state, who write an organization’s name on the back of a non-winning ticket and submit it to the lottery. Some guests at the shelter had turned on the t.v. while they cleaned up dishes, and it happened to be on the right station. Anyway, I am sure you can guess what happened next. The announcer drew the one winning ticket out of the thousands of nominees and read the name La Puente, in Alamosa. A roar of cheers let out as the group exclaimed: “We won!!!” They called the director immediately and let him know the incredible and miraculous news. Guess what the amount awarded to La Puente was. Yep, exactly $10,000. The crucial miracle had occurred, and shortly thereafter “Milagros” opened its doors to the public. God is good.