Free Coffee is Grounds for Hope

by Linda Leigh
Categories: Feature, Mobile, Newswire
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By keeping a pot of coffee brewing, The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood is changing lives.

“Coffee connects people,” says Kyle Brennan, Thrift Store Manager. “All of us need others for support and to feel valued.”

For many in this community who live on a fixed income, the thrift store is more than an outing or a place to buy items at a low cost. On any given day, a steady flow of guests are drawn to the smell of coffee at the rear of the store. Here a couple of soft couches nestled amongst shelves stacked with books invite you to relax, meet new people and engage in conversation.

Jonny’s Story
“The coffee corner is a place where I feel I belong,” says 27-year-old Jonny. “Here I can temporarily avoid focusing on my current situation.”

Jonny grew up staring out his window wondering if he’d ever end up being happy. When his father disowned him at birth it was almost unbelievable. Then his mother immersed herself in her work, leaving Jonny to fend for himself.

“I’ve always done things on my own,” says Jonny. “It’s harder than you might think.”

With lack of parental support Jonny questioned his self-worth. He tried to reach out for help, but when he spoke, no-one listened. Jonny has never experienced genuine peace and love.

Today Jonny is unable to work due to chronic health issues. He calls the streets home and sleeps in places that are well-lit to avoid mugging. He memorizes soup-kitchen schedules and his wrinkled, dirty clothes, remind him of the beating he has taken in life.

But thanks to a cup of coffee and a listening ear Jonny has hope for a better future.

At the coffee corner Jonny met Doug, a Salvation Army Pastor in the community. “We need to get you off the streets,” says Doug.

Trust is an issue for Jonny and he was hesitant to respond. However, he saw that Doug was genuine and accepted his business card. Jonny wanted nothing more than to make loneliness and homelessness a thing of his past.

“This card makes me happy,” Jonny replies. “Let’s talk.”