Updated: Nov 9
What is really going on behind the scenes at Love Coffee? We're following in our founding organization's footsteps! Love Coffee is the brainchild of Chuck Crews and Love Columbia Co-Founders Jane Williams and Pat McMurry. Path to Purpose not only describes the journey Love Coffee hopes to assist program participants with, it also describes the journey Love Coffee is on itself! As former board member Renee Carter often says, "Everyone needs supported employment".
Love Columbia (then Love INC) pioneered the volunteer assisted adult human capacity development program currently used as a best practice. Love Coffee is now a separate organization building a similar program created for people with disabilities.
Love Coffee’s Path to Purpose job training program assists these individuals as they make the often daunting transition from high school to the general workforce.
It is a four part program that begins in high-school and completes with employment in Columbia area businesses.
Path to Purpose’s unique features include supported job skills training, volunteer mentorship, and job search and placement upon graduation. It is structured around the requirements of Competitive Integrated Employment an institutional best practice. Here’s how it works:
Step 1 Work Experience Partnership with Columbia Public Schools Special Education Department. During the 2022/23 school year CPS students participated in Love Coffee/Camacho Coffee work blocks - assisting the retail bagged coffee packaging and shipping operations. As this program expands it will provide context for relationships with students to develop and their interest in Love Coffee’s programs to be explored.
Step 2 Initial Transition at Love Coffee’s Business Loop bakery and café. Participants begin competitive wage employment, assisted by program staff and peer employees. Café patrons are drawn by Love Coffee’s mission and provide a supportive customer base as students develop self-confidence and learn customer service, soft skills, baking, barista services, food prep and cashiering.
Step 3 Secondary Transition at the new Columbia Orthopaedic Group kiosk. Those progressing in the program are promoted to the COG kiosk. The pace is faster, has more customers and those not necessarily drawn by the mission. This is transition to a real world work environment that further develops confidence and equally important, social capital. Love Coffee plans to add a volunteer assistance component at this phase of the program. Volunteer advocates will develop mentoring friendships with participants to encourage and cheer-lead as they make progress. This is a model used by Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Love Columbia, and others. This is the secret sauce of the Love Coffee model. (note* Boone County CASA Executive Director Kelly Hill, working with Love INC's Jane Williams - created what is now Love Columbia's volunteer based Extra Mile Program - for her Master's thesis at MU in 2012)
Step 4 Transition into the general workforce. Working with Love Coffee assistance, those progressing from the kiosk stage find employment among Columbia area businesses.
The intent of the Volunteer Advocate program is for the friendships formed while staffing shifts at the kiosk - to accompany participants into the workforce and beyond. Here is where two oft-repeated quotes from Love Columbia are helpful; from volunteers: “I got so much out of my relationship with “Cassie” I felt she helped me more than I helped her”. From participants: “It was 'Marie’s belief in me that gave me the courage and support to move forward and envision a better future for myself, I couldn’t have done it without her”.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
These four steps from the core programs and rationale behind Love Coffee’s job skills training work, but there is much to do before this program is fully functioning. Though Love Coffee has had limited success in all of these areas, our current deployment is far from complete. Our biggest hurdle is to formalize this program, provide a program director, obtain Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) certification, and qualify to contract with state agencies for job training and placement services. This will provide much needed funding to bring the model to financial sustainability. The training model is costly and currently funded about 30% by sales of coffee and pastries - the remainder by private donations and grants.
There is nearly unanimous support for this volunteer assisted workforce inclusion model among Columbia employment training experts. It is a program whose time has come. Love Coffee intends to further develop vital relationships with other educational partners in Columbia and become an important part of our already remarkable educational resources. But building this program on sales from cups of coffee and pastries is as daunting as transitioning to the workforce is for some of the program participants. Love Coffee needs your help. Please consider Love Coffee's Path to Purpose program in your 2023 year-end giving plans and join the team building this significant institutional construction project.
If you would like to find out more about Love Coffee's progress towards these goals contact email@example.com for a personal overview. Thank you!