Coffee shops brew comfort for homeless community, giving out hats and mittens

Beans Coffee Bar has started the Warm Hands, Warm Hearts initiative.

A giving tree for Beans Coffee Bar's Warm Hands, Warm Hearts, stands Wednesday, Nov. 11, in the Veterans Boulevard store in south Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — Beans Coffee Bar is perhaps best known for serving a mini doughnut with its drinks, but as winter rolls in the Fargo chain is offering up more to help keep the community toasty.

The coffee shop has started the Warm Hands, Warm Hearts initiative which aims to give winter hats, mittens, scarves and socks to those in need.

All three locations, as well as a handful of other businesses, will have a tree set up for people to drop off new or gently-used winter wear.

It’s the second year for the project, but Heidi Holland, owner of Beans, says they started even earlier this year, at the beginning of November, around the company’s sixth anniversary. She says the trees will stay up through the winter, as long as cold weather is a health risk.


Heidi Holland, owner of Beans Coffee Bar, with the Warm Hands, Warm Heart giving tree at her Veterans Boulevard location, 5675 26th Ave S. , Fargo, in 2020. Forum file photo

Holland says she doesn’t come downtown often, but after opening a Beans on the main floor of the Radisson Hotel in 2018, she saw the homeless problem in downtown first hand.

“When we opened Beans, it was obvious there was a need to help the homeless. To me, it seemed really bad,” she says. “I was really concerned as the weather got colder”

Inspired by giving trees she’d seen in other cities, she organized the Warm Hands, Warm Hearts initiative.

Beans has partnered with Downtown Community Partnership, FM Coalition to End Homelessness, Homeless Health Service, Business Improvement District (BID), and Gladys Ray Shelter.

Getting people to step up and drop off winter wear was no problem, but Holland soon saw that those in need didn’t always come in to take needed items from the trees.

She’s urging her crews and customers to help in handing out items.


“I want the staff and the community to take the items and just give them out any time they see someone who needs it. Grab some to keep in your car, so if you see someone who needs a hat, you can give it to them,” she says. “Be intentional about helping people out yourself. Don’t wait for others to do it.”

Ann Olson is the manager of Sandy's Donuts in downtown Fargo. Forum file photo

Ann Olson, manager of the downtown Fargo Sandy’s Donuts, which participates in the campaign, has already taken that to heart.

“I’ll see someone just walking by and ask them if they need a hat or gloves,” she says. “I haven’t been told ‘no.’”

“Good things happen when you step out of your comfort zone,” Holland says. She adds that she’ll also bring donations to the shelters to be handed out.

Olson says she’s well aware of homelessness in downtown, thanks to the large window on the store and it’s entrance to the atrium next door.

“We have a front row view of the needs out there,” she says.


Olson has helped at the New Life Center in the past and saw that there can be lots of reasons people are homeless, but no matter the cause, most were ill-prepared for winter.

“You can’t wear a leather coat in North Dakota in the winter,” she says.

Olson and Holland have both been delighted when patrons bring in handmade knit hats, mittens and scarves.

“It’s so precious, such a special gift,” Holland says.

Other participating businesses in the Warm Hands, Warm Hearts campaign are fellow downtown spots, The Silver Lining Creamery, Rhombus Guys and Gallery 4. CSM, located at 342 42nd St., S., Fargo is also participating.

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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