The coffee is some of the best around, but it’s not about the coffee, not really. Spend any time at the Shine Café
at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus and you’ll agree.
The baristas are always quick with a friendly greeting and an encouraging word, as they love putting smiles on their customers’ faces while also lifting each other up. They simply love serving—both the public and one another.
Since the first cup of coffee was poured a year ago, the Shine Café—staffed by members of Southeast’s Shine disabilities ministry—has been providing opportunities. A large sign on the wall proclaiming the Shine Café’s mission statement welcomes each customer as they place their order:
Our mission is to glorify God by equipping and empowering adults with disabilities to serve in a unique space for Christ-centered community and fellowship.
While the idea for the Shine Café came about as a way to provide those in the Shine community needed skills after one of the now-baristas was turned down for a job because he didn’t have any work experience, it is much more.
“One thing that I really love, that I’ve seen that’s beautiful, is our baristas now know some of the regular church attendees’ names and the church attendees know their names,” said Shelley Roach of the Shine Ministry. “They’re not just church members, they’re friends.”
Several of the baristas and customers have gotten to know each other so well that the baristas have become familiar with their customers’ routines and drink preferences and will have their orders ready when they arrive.
“It just speaks volumes to the fact that this café is doing more than just serving coffee. Servant hearts are being developed, we are making friendships and building community, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness,” Shelley said.
One of those baristas is Sam Roach (no relation to Shelley). Sam has become friends with Jane, who serves in the Connection Center at the Blankenbaker Campus on Wednesday mornings. Knowing that Jane likes to start her day with a black decaffeinated coffee, he always takes her a cup prior to beginning his shift.
It’s just one of the many things Sam enjoys about serving at the Shine Café. Besides feeling the satisfaction of a job well done, whether it’s making the perfect hot or iced coffee blend or ensuring that everything is cleaned and stocked, Sam likes spending time with customers on monthly Game Days, where the public, including those from the intellectual and developmental disability community, are invited to come and play board games.
“It’s really important because, since COVID, programs have closed and a lot of residential homes are still in lockdown mode to some extent,” Shelley said.
She added that it also allows the public to connect with a segment of the community they may not otherwise have an opportunity to interact with and to learn that we all want the same things—friendships, a place to be social and hang out, and a place where they belong.
This is Andrew Weiner’s first job, and he looks forward to serving at the Shine Café as much today as when he started a year ago.
“I love to see the smile on people’s faces when I give them their drinks. It makes my day every time I see that,” Andrew said, adding that he is thankful for the “chance to do God’s will and do the things that He wants me to do. It’s just, like, amazing.”
Hayden Redmon also works as an office assistant for Special Olympics Kentucky but said his time at the Shine Café is special because of the people, including those with whom he serves.
“I truly love everybody in here that I work with. It’s hard for me to come face to face with a stranger, but I totally love everybody,” he said.
Emily Lane is another barista who hasn’t met a stranger. She is the Shine Café’s “official greeter” as people arrive for worship services on Sunday mornings, that is until Kathy, a regular, stops by and Emily quickly goes behind the counter to prepare a Diet Coke for her friend.
The Shine Café didn’t have a tip jar when it opened, but customers kept asking for one as a way to show their appreciation to the baristas for a job well done. Their generosity since a jar was put out has been nothing short of amazing, funding the Shine Ministry’s first mission trip in October.
Several of the baristas visited Ability Ministry's Riverwood Christian Community—a residential home for persons with developmental disabilities in Louisville, Tennessee—where they helped with landscaping and worshiped and built community with the residents.
That spirit of worship and community is on display each week. The 23 baristas—all but three, who began in August, have served with the Shine Café since it opened—spend time in the Shine Suite before or after their shift on Tuesday or Wednesday, where they listen to a devotional, pray for one another, and have lunch together.
“It’s a sweet group,” Shelley said. “They all just care about each other. They encourage one another and they love serving. The Shine Café is one way that our baristas can do one at a time ministry.”