Sandy-haired Cuco, 2, lives on the streets of Alejuelita, a lurid, decaying area west of Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, where crack addicts and street gangs roam and rob. Cuco's mother peddles drugs and sex in the neighborhood, while Cuco and his five siblings are left on their own to survive.

Until six months ago, Cuco's one daily meal came from a friendly neighbor. Then a 4-year-old friend brought him to Hogar Zoe (House of Life), a Christian drug rehabilitation center that, as best it can on scarce resources, also ministers to needy children.

REACHING KIDS: Two years ago, Chris Dearnley, pastor of the Vineyard Church of Escazœ, near San Jose, asked Zoe's director, Carlos Cordoba, how Dearnley's church could support the program. Cordoba responded simply, "Help us reach the children."

Hogar Zoe serves meals to neighborhood youth every other day, so the Vineyard of Escazœ took charge of the kitchen every other Saturday and added an evangelism outreach. But soon Dearnley came to understand what Cordoba already recognized: It would take more than beans and rice to keep these children from perishing on the streets of San Jose. Dearnley wrestled with the problem of how to assure a steady stream of funds for Zoe so it could expand programs to have greater impact on young lives.

Dearnley, whose background includes a Harvard mba, started thinking about coffee. He recalls visiting university friends in California in July 1997: "We were sitting around discussing our financial need and situation, and I said, 'Hey, I brought you some coffee from Costa Rica.' " At that moment, he envisioned a coffee export operation, with the profits financing social outreach. "We looked at each other and said, 'Hey, why don't we do this?' "

Now Pura Vida ...

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