Hope Café Opens At Worcester Rehab To Help Prepare Residents To Re-enter Community

Hope Café Opens At Worcester Rehab To Help Prepare Residents To Re-enter Community

WORCESTER, M.A. – The smell of coffee and bakery goodies is accompanied by the sound of soft jazz and friendly banter between the team putting orders together at Hope Café. The café is a place for the community to get together and start the morning with a smile at Worcester Rehabilitation & Health Care Center.

Monday, March 6th was the grand opening of Hope Café, a resident-run coffee shop at the rehab center. Moving forward, residents and staff are welcomed into the Activity Room every Tuesday morning to purchase café items for $1, with the proceeds going to the Resident Council. The money can then be used to purchase whatever the council desires such as food luncheons or events.

Worcester Rehab residents Daniel Hall and Tanya refill the coffee maker at Hope Café with Diamond Boone supervising

The purpose of Hope Café is as strong as the coffee sold at it. The “staff” are residents of Worcester Rehab. Many are short-term rehabilitation residents. Diamond Boone, Athena’s Director of Therapeutic Recreation for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said Hope Café serves as a community re-entry program for the residents and helps reduce unwanted behavior in the center by giving the residents meaningful work while creating a community space.

“We’re doing this because, when we work with patients with SUDS (Substance Use Disorders) at our buildings, we realize that the main meaningful programming for them is work because a lot of them, before coming into Worcester Rehab, were working,” Boone said. “The best way to engage the residents was to introduce work in the facility.”

Daniel Hall moved into Worcester Rehab in December after undergoing an amputation surgery due to complications from diabetes. A former mental health facility employee for the State of Connecticut, Hall had seen programs similar to Hope Café in his former employment and what its benefit was. When approached about the café at Worcester Rehab, he knew he wanted to be involved.

“I’m very enthusiastic about it. I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “Once I’m able to get back into the workforce… it’s something I’ll be able to bring back to the table.”

While Hall handed out bagels, Laura Modig took the orders. As a former chef and restaurant owner, this put her back in her element, so she was asked to be a part of it.

The Hope Café team of (back row from left to right) Crystal Washburn-Baroutas, Shelly Perrell, Daniel Hall, Jennifer Vail, Diamond Boone, and Donna Byrne as well as Tanya and Laura Modig in front

“It’s getting a lot of people out of their beds just to come down and check it out,” she said. “Hope means a lot of different things to me.”

Modig moved into Worcester Rehab in October because of her arthritis. She has suffered losses in her family including her husband and foster child and now has a son serving in the military. Modig enjoys being able to socialize with other residents and staff and create a place of community on Tuesday mornings.

Boone said Hope Café is giving the residents vocational skills to help those who have a history of Substance Use Disorder. This café at Worcester Rehab gives the residents additional job training tools to help them get ready to work again when they are discharged back into the community and be successful. 

Jennifer Vail, the center’s Therapeutic Recreation Director, said the main factor behind the creation was residents’ desire to get into the workforce someday.

In order to participate in the café, the workers have to attend a weekly class with Vail. This class is a place to gather and work on improving themselves. They address anger management, stress management, behavior de-escalation, and more.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with our [Substance Use Disorders] residents because a lot of them were homeless when they came here and a lot of them have estranged relationships with their families, so they really don’t have anybody as a support,” Vail said.

Shelly Perrell has lived at Worcester Rehab for two years. She shared her story of being homeless and addicted to drugs in the past. She was recommended to move into Worcester Rehab by a social worker. She said she feels “good” and enjoyed the first day at Hope Café. Having a past like hers, she said she likes to lend a helping hand to others.

A line forms at Hope Café during its grand opening Monday

Boone hopes the efforts at Worcester Rehab will expand into other Athena nursing centers. Regional Resident Ambassador Crystal Washburn-Baroutas said the café is giving people a reason to get out of their rooms.

“I think it’s good to have the residents involved because it gives them a sense of accomplishment, something to look forward to,” she said.

The residents running the café are excited about its future. They have ideas on how to grow and improve including specialty breakfast items and additional equipment. Staff and residents at Worcester Rehab are excited to turn the coffee pots back on and continue to build a community in the place they call home.

Hope Café is open every Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Worcester Rehab.

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March 6, 2023 A Healthier Approach To Caring, Resident Stories