Coffee shops brew a cup of community at Los Angeles churches

Jimmy Valdez danced on Skid Row, dressed in wedding attire with his bride. They handed out donated food. They celebrated their marriage in a way only someone whose life was saved from the peril of addiction could celebrate. For Valdez, that salvation started with a church preaching more than just religion but service.

“We danced our first dance in the middle of San Pedro [Street] — middle of the grimy, gritty streets of Skid Row,” Valdez said. “It was such a beautiful, beautiful experience to see the smiles of the people there.”

Valdez, 29, grew up around violence, spent three years of his youth incarcerated and spent a majority of his 20s battling drug and alcohol addiction. He said it wasn’t until he gave his life to God and got a job at Holy Grounds, a café run by St. Monica Catholic Community in the greater Los Angeles area, that he started turning his life around.

Holy Grounds in Santa Monica, California, is part of a larger trend of coffee shops being attached to and run by churches. In the Los Angeles area, there are about a dozen of these types of coffee shops, many popping up over the last few years.

But the cafés — attached to Catholic churches — tend to have a longer history.

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