Nestled in the community center of the McKinney Historic Downtown lies a charming little cafe that, at first glance, simply appears to be one of the many “Mom and Pop” type joints common to the square. What is unique about this little cafe is not its food, though the cuisine is fresh and tasty. What is so special about the cafe is its mission, as it is run nearly entirely by a neurodiverse and handicapable staff.
When you first enter Hugs, it is clear there is a warm sense of community. You are greeted with big smiles and a hearty welcome as you are handed a menu and a marker to make your selections. The greeter will tell you the special of the day, make some menu suggestions if you are unsure, and tell you where to proceed to place your order. The restaurant is bright, with an open concept, so patrons can see the staff prepping their food. Thanks to a fresh facelift, a new merchandise station is positioned at the front of the restaurant to browse while you wait for your order too. Because Hugs Cafe is a non-profit, all tips and merchandise purchases are considered donations in support of the organization.
Hugs Prep, a growing food service training program aimed at training individuals on kitchen basics, is planning to grow its programming in a big way with more details to come in early 2022. Hugs also trains and employs individuals with special needs for a horticulture operation, Hugs Greenhouse, that sources annuals and perennials for many of the local businesses around, including some as large as Baylor, Scott & White. Other symbiotic partnerships with other local nonprofits are ongoing to foster community involvement and awareness while promoting positive self esteem and self efficacy for the populations they serve.
One such partnership was witnessed over the 4th of July weekend at the annual Red, White, and BOOM Festival (pictured) in which Hugs partnered with the Beautiful Lives Project, another nonprofit whose mission is to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities and promote participation in activities not typically available to them. Together, Hugs and the Beautiful Lives Project DFW Chapter put on a fashion show featuring individuals with disabilities, most employed by Hugs, in the middle of McKinney’s Historic Downtown Square with the support of many of the local businesses and even a special appearance by Maylee Thomas Fuller, the First Lady of McKinney. This event was filmed as part of an upcoming reality series called Beautiful Lives Project as their second episode entitled Runway Rockstars: McKinney.
It is organizations in our community such as these that truly impact the lives of those around us in positive ways. Though it is easy to watch from afar and wonder at all they are doing, you too can get involved. But how? Sure, you can go to Hugs and grab a bite, or contact their greenhouse for your next lawn project. You can visit community events like Runway Rockstar and show your support that way. But the most impactful way you can show your support is to make a personal connection. Take the time to say hello. Remember someone’s name. Engage in the community and make someone feel seen and valued. Give Hugs.
If you would like to visit and support Hugs Cafe, please stop by 224 E. Virginia Street, McKinney TX 75069. They are open Tuesday – Friday 11am to 2pm and Saturdays 11am to 3pm, and are closed on Sundays & Mondays. Hugs Greenhouse is open seasonally on Tuesdays – Saturdays from 9am to 3pm and is located at 3054 CR 205 McKinney, TX 75069.
Hugs Cafe is the flagship of the nonprofit, though exciting opportunities and changes are coming.