At the heart of the village of Liverpool, there’s a little café with a big mission.
The Café @ 407, located at 407 Tulip St., opened in 2009 as a way to help fund Ophelia’s Place, a support and resource center for individuals and families impacted by eating disorders. The café’s sales of food and coffee provide a good portion of the money to help the center function.
Now, to better serve that mission, the café is looking for your help to complete a necessary expansion.
“We definitely underestimated what we would need [when we built the café],” said Mary Ellen Clausen, founder of Ophelia’s Place. Clausen stepped down as executive director in 2012 to become its funding director. When the café opened, it used donated equipment, including a residential refrigerator and stove with only three working burners. Since then, it’s become a community hotspot, necessitating an upgrade to its facilities.
“We want to reconfigure the line, making it more efficient, along with building a separate coffee bar for customers who just want a quick cup of coffee,” Clausen said. “Additionally we are creating workstation areas making it easier for our customers who need a place to work or study or just create. We also need to build some offices for Ophelia’s Place along with an HVAC unit in that area; it gets a little stuffy back there.”
To help fund the expansion, the café has launched a campaign on Indiegogo.com, through which it hopes to raise $20,000. Indiegogo is an international crowd funding site started in 2008. The site’s structure allows users to create a page for their funding campaign, set up an account with PayPal, make a list of “perks” for different levels of donation, then create a social media-based publicity effort. Users publicize the projects themselves through Facebook, Twitter and similar platforms. Unlike similar sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo disburses the funds immediately, when the contributions are collected through the user’s PayPal accounts or direct credit card payments. Those funds are disbursed up to two weeks after the conclusion of a campaign. The site has helped fund nearly 50,000 campaigns since its founding.
In addition to financial donations, the café is looking for any kind of help community members can offer.
“Giving comes in many ways,’’ Clausen said. “[People] can share their time and talents, or share this campaign with their friends.”
The Indiegogo campaign relies on donations from the community, a feature important to the Café @ 407 in particular because it’s become such an integral part of the community as well as the nonprofit it serves.
“It’s been so significant for Ophelia’s Place,” Clausen said. “It truly has become a place of acceptance as it somehow seems to validate the struggle simply by its existence. All are welcomed, and the community as a whole has embraced not only Ophelia’s Place and those we serve but the beautiful diversity in us all. It has become a gathering place, so whether you come alone or with a group there is a place here for you.”
That’s why the expansion is necessary — so that it can better serve the community that has made it a home.
“This will allow us to build a solid infrastructure that will support our growth and provide the much-needed revenue for Ophelia’s Place,” Clausen said. “Our goal is to become fully sustainable, without having to rely on grants and the ever-changing economy, and the success of Café @ 407 is helping to accomplish this.”
The expansion is also personally important to Clausen, who founded Ophelia’s Place in 2003 after watching her daughters struggle with eating disorders without resources to help. The center’s goal is to help redefine a standard of beauty that isn’t set by thinness or unhealthy images in the media.
“I believe wholeheartedly in the power of community,” Clausen said, “and this community has shown me time and time again that we are never alone and Ophelia’s Place continues to exist because of them. That’s beauty.”
To donate, visit indiegogo.com/projects/cafe-at-407-expansion/x/3876035.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.