FREE Spiritual Community & Wagon Coffee Roasters Helping Recovering Addicts One Cup At A Time

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Photos courtesy of Tami Canaday

Tami and Ryan Canaday’s journey of turning the tragedy of addiction into a triumph for themselves and others began in 2018 when a handful of addicts and their loved ones gathered in their suburban Denver backyard to enjoy a cup of coffee and share their stories without shame or judgment.

Within four months, “Our backyard was busting at the seams,” Tami recalls. “It was apparent we were filling a need—and that we needed more space.”

Ryan, a United Methodist Church pastor who celebrated his 10th year of sobriety in January, and Tami, who had been a corporate coffee company executive, quickly realized this response had validated their vision of helping others reach, and sustain, recovery.

Bags Of Wagon Coffee

An assortment of blends from Wagon Coffee Roasters

Tami had worked as a barista while completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Colorado Christian University and proceeded to learn “everything there is to know about coffee, which I love,” while pursuing a master’s degree and climbing the corporate management ladder.?

“For our backyard gatherings, I was serving coffee that I had roasted in a little 8-ounce roaster,” Tami says. “Everyone loved it.” The enthusiastic response, she adds, “sparked something in me to do something with coffee that would make a measurable impact on those in recovery.” 

First came FREE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is now housed in a former church near the University of Denver. Tami describes FREE as “a community for addicts, loved ones of addicts and spiritual refugees where we break the silence of addiction while creating space for healing, recovery and spiritual connection.” Ryan Canaday is its executive director and spiritual leader.

“There are between 500 and 1,000 people in our building every week for meetings, clinics and other activities,” Tami says. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Canadays moved the popular Saturday-evening meetings online, reaching people in 45 countries who spoke 33 different languages. Today, a couple thousand people from all over the world continue with the online sessions, while an additional 200 or so gather in person. 

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Tami and Ryan Canaday visit a coffee farm in Costa Rica, which is one of the 10-plus countries from which Wagon Coffee Roasters beans are sourced

Ryan leads the Saturday-night meetings, which begin with the Lord’s Prayer, end with the Serenity Prayer and give the Canadays and others “a front-row seat to God’s miracles—and the lowest lows.” 

FREE also is the home to a “pay as you can” café run by women who are at least one year sober. It opened in March 2021, and the featured beverage is coffee brewed from Tami’s Wagon Coffee Roasters, a for-profit business that she started in 2020.

Wagon Coffee Roasters helps fund FREE while employing and empowering women in recovery and providing a verified living income to coffee-growing partners in over 10 countries. “Our coffee is processed from farm to cup by humans, not machines, who receive livable, workable wages,” Tami notes. “We’re an eco-friendly, zero-emissions company, thanks to our Bellwether roaster, of which there are only a handful in Colorado.”

Wagon Coffee is sold online and in some 50 sober-living homes, a handful of churches and retail outlets that include The Donut in Greenwood Village, Angel Concept in Littleton and Wave the Grain locations in Littleton and Centennial, according to Tami. 

FREE recently received a grant from the Anschutz Foundation to explore options for expansion. “We want to expand, but we want to do it right, with the correct logistics,” says Tami. “The grant enables us to do that.”

FREE Spiritual Community and Wagon Coffee Roasters
2122 S. Lafayette St., Denver

Joanne Davidson is a frequent contributor to Colorado Expression.

Categories: Community/Society