Roosevelt Coffeehouse founder Kenny Sipes deciphers how buying one cup of coffee in Columbus can do good around the globe.
Three years ago, Kenny Sipes quit his longtime gig as a youth minister. He had no plan in place, just a single idea-to create a high-end coffee shop with a social mission.
Clear any images of a hippy-dippy, craft-selling cafe from your mind. Sipes' 2,000-square-foot Roosevelt Coffeehouse, which opened in the Discovery District in April, is airy and modern with nearly two stories of windows overlooking East Long Street and a bar fashioned from the wood of an old bowling alley. It's a third-wave coffeehouse-a place where well-sourced and well-roasted coffee is appreciated-serving beans from two respected roasters, local One Line Coffee and Portland-based (and coffee-enthusiast-darling) Stumptown.
Here, coffee is given as much credence as the anti-hunger, anti-human trafficking and clean water causes this nonprofit shop supports. The hope, Sipes says, is the impact of one cup of coffee will last longer than its caffeine buzz. Sipes shares how he hopes coffee can make a difference. rooseveltcoffee.org
How he settled on fighting hunger and human trafficking and improving access to clean water:
Sipes chose causes he believes are neither polarizing nor alienating. They are causes everyone can tap into. "We wanted to be impactful," Sipes says. "Nobody wants to see anybody starve to death, die of preventable, waterborne diseases or live with a lack of freedom."
Why he picked 10 organizations to consistently support:
"The goal was to partner with long-term restoration thinkers," he says. "There are a lot of people who raise money or go on a mission trip for two weeks, but they don't have any long-term investment." Many of the selected beneficiaries are ones he encountered during his time as a youth pastor. One by one, Sipes can discuss the chosen organizations, spouting facts in did-you-know and can-you-believe fashion. No preachy or holier-than-thou attitude here.
There's Blood:Water, which provides guidance on how to maintain clean wells to those in Ethiopia, and International Justice Mission, which uses teams of lawyers, social workers and investigators to infiltrate brothels. There's also Exile International, which provides trauma care through spiritual art therapy to more than 300 former child soldiers, young rape victims and war-affected children in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Art just kind of speaks to a place where words and encouragement don't," Sipes says.
Other supported organizations include Food for the Hungry, Restore International, Salvation Army, Gracehaven, Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, Faith Mission and She Has a Name.
Where the money goes:
The first year in business, Sipes is planning for one big give. After that, he hopes to make donations based on quarterly profits. In the meantime, the coffee shop is contributing small amounts to charities by splitting tips with baristas. Rotating causes-such as meals for Faith Mission-are clearly marked on the tip jar at the counter.
Aid, Sipes says, will be given with a purpose. So when someone asks, "Where does my money go?" he can say, "To buy 37 sand filters through Blood:Water," as it did at the end of last year with money raised during pop-ups.
"I want it to be tangible," he says. "That's why we wanted to sponsor a child. A child is tangible. That's why we want to give meals. Meals are tangible. I think it's exciting to come into a coffee shop and know they are navigating [the giving] somehow."