How a Small and Innovative Cafe is Making a Big Difference
Enlace Project has found its newest “link” between the United States and El Sauce through the Rush United Methodist Church outside of Rochester, New York. Devin Lyles, the church’s Pastor of Youth and Outreach, became interested in Enlace Project’s programs and opportunities when approached by Sean Conner, Enlace’s Nicaragua intern and member of the Rush, NY congregation. Although Enlace Project is not affiliated with any religious institution or group, the two organizations share the common mission of helping to meet the needs of those in underprivileged communities.
Thus, discussion began between RUMC and Enlace Project on how to best use the church’s congregation and enthusiasm to help drive Enlace’s projects. The result takes is the use of Ocotal Coffee, which is purchased from Java Joe’s and sold at the church’s grassroots café space—a locale that is unique in the area, serving as a meeting space for creative minds, artists, musicians, and other fair-trade sales merchants. The coffee is served on a donation basis, with all profits directly benefiting Enlace’s microloan program.
Café Aroma, as RUMC’s community space is named, came about in attempts to bring the many talents and skills of Rush into one place where they could be emphasized, accompanied by coffee and intimate conversation. Beginning in September 2013, the café began to function bringing in acoustic musical acts on the first Saturday of the month and serving as a meeting place before and after the Sunday church services. The walls display the art of local artists—including some of Kris Dreessen's photographs of El Sauce—and the church is also working on putting together some workshops in the future.
“Our hope has always been to create a space that fosters community,” Devin explains. “We like to think Glocally.” By this Devin refers to both a global and a local focus.
The church has a strong reputation for service work, including raising funds for a water project in Africa, working with a hospice and orphanage in South Africa, organizing yearly mission trips, and working in soup kitchens in Rochester. Keeping the service focus with the café, Devin and the rest of the congregation are glad to support the direct-trade coffee that Java Joe buys from Ocotal. When it was first served, Devin recalls, “everyone commented on the level of the quality of the coffee.” The donations going towards Enlace Project’s microloan program also shows the church’s attention to international service. When art is hung in the church for sale, the church requires that 10% of the profits go to a mission of some sort.
In the month of December, Café Aroma is planning a Christmas Extravaganza for the Acoustic Saturday performance. He assures, “there will be eggnog and ugly sweaters aplenty.” For more information and general hours of operation, you can visit http://www.thecafearoma.com/.