Local Giving

Give Thanks at Coffeehouse Northwest—and Raise Money for Immigrants and Refugees

The local cafe's long-running Thanksgiving charity free-for-all returns, this year benefiting Portland's Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.

By Kelly Clarke November 22, 2016

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Coffeehouse NW's excellent mocha—free for all on Thanksgiving Day. 

Image: Karen Brooks

There's a handful of things you can count on during a Portland Thanksgiving: rain, Random Order pies, and Coffeehouse Northwest's wonderful “drinks on the house, pay what you like” charity event. 

For 11 years and counting, the beloved West Burnside cafe has thrown open its doors on Thanksgiving morning and offered its wares for free. The real magic happens at the tip jar: every cent you decide to fork over goes directly to charity. The CHNW staff votes each year on which nonprofit to support—everything from Sisters of the Road to the Nothing But Nets malaria prevention campaign in past years. The caffeine-fueled charity drive has become a bit of its own holiday tradition: bleary-eyed regulars wake up early and pack the shop to guzzle some of the city's best coffee for free...and then stuff the big tip basket with whatever they can afford to give. Last year several hundred customers showed up; raising $2,100 for Portland's Homeless Youth Law Clinic

This year's edition will benefit Portland's IRCO (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization), which helps provide services for local immigrants and refugees. Order what you like, from CHNW's famed cappuccinos to Bakeshop's excellent fruit hand pies. CHNW staffers volunteer their time, local operation Sunshine Dairy donates milk, Bakeshop donates all the awesome pastries, and, this year, Farina Bakery donated a rainbow of fresh macarons. 

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Coffeehouse NW staffers at last year's Thanksgiving event—from left, manager Aric Miller, former owner Adam McGovern, and barista Ray Penrod.

Image: Karen Brooks

The event dates back to 2005, dreamed up by original CHNW owner Adam McGovern, manager Aric Miller, and their natty barista crew. “Like a lot of transplants, we had nowhere to go. We thought about getting everyone together for an impromptu Friendsgiving," remembers Miller, who now co-owns the city's exemplary Sterling Coffee Roasters with McGovern. "Then we decided, 'Why not just open our door and give everything away because it's Thanksgiving?' That turned into 'Let’s raise some money for charity.'”

Coffeehouse NW recently sold to two longtime customers, Sean and Nicolette Ryan. The crew is still pretty much the same though, and the coffeehouse remains a satellite of Sterling Coffee Roasters. The Turkey Day tradition isn't going anywhere either. Miller will still lead the charge this year, in his typical button-down shirt and tie, with the Ryans on hand to serve customers from 8 a.m. to noon. After all, what's Thanksgiving in Portland without a cup of coffee and some do-goodery?

Coffeehouse Northwest
1951 W Burnside St
Thanksgiving's "Pay What You Like, Tip for Charity" event runs 8 a.m.–noon

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