While in Africa with a Christian missionary-aid organization, Josh To found it harder than expected to safely distribute malaria pills.
Few of the villages he visited, in rural Ghana, had access to clean drinking water, said To, who is now a Google employee.
"They would take these pills down with muddy water," he said. "That brought the issue of water to life for us."
Four years later, To has partnered with Red Rock, the downtown coffee house (itself run by a Christian group) which has done its own charity work in Africa over the years.
Red Rock has served mainly as a staging area for a project To launched through his nonprofit, Brute Labs. The project, dubbed "Well Done," raises money to dig new, clean wells in rural Ghana where they're needed most.
Getting materials to these villages is hard, and it costs $8,000 to build a well. But in the last two years, To said, Well Done has funded six wells in areas which he describes as largely "unreachable."
As a result, "We are able to provide water to people who have no other way of getting it," he said.
Well Done launched its campaign at Red Rock, and its posters are prominently displayed there. Cafe employees have been helping the nonprofit by selling T-shirts and taking donations, and by now the coffee shop, To said, has helped raise a few thousand dollars.
Red Rock is also planning to give a free cup of coffee later this summer in exchange for a $10 donation to Well Done. Meanwhile, To said, the coffee shop employees "have been crucial in connecting us with artists and scientists."
Steve Joh of Red Rock said Well Done's mission is "consistent with the vision" of the coffee shop.
"We want to provide a common space for people to do good things," Joh said.