WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Get what you want and pay what you can. That’s the theme at a relatively new Wichita coffee shop.
Sojourner’s Coffee House is a nonprofit with a mission to serve active duty military, veterans, and their families.
“The Lord laid it on my heart to open a place where veterans could gather for coffee and a healthy environment, form relationships, and just give them a place to come and find some peace,” said Sojourner’s Owner Ashley King.
The military message
Ashley and her husband, veteran Larry King, opened the west Wichita store in April of 2021.
“One of my dreams is there to always be a table of military veterans here, so if they just want to come talk to somebody or hang out with other veterans they know that they can come here and do that,” Ashley said.
Larry served in the Air Force until 2012. He said after separating from the military, he struggled.
“My transition was ok, but there were still things that I lacked after leaving service like the support network, and close relationships after all my close friends left,” said Larry.
Larry suffered from PTSD. He and Ashley said the transition into civilian life came with its challenges. It’s why they are both passionate about serving the military community.
“I know what it’s like to have your friends go away after your service is up after you are discharged and you kind of lose a network, so we are looking to provide a network for guys and ladies that have lost that,” said Larry King.
“They are trained in the military to live a certain way, to speak a certain way, and to think and process things a certain way and that doesn’t always translate to family life or civilian life,” explained Ashley. “So learning how do we come together and how do we move forward in a healthy way and in a healthy relationship and a healthy family and how do we do that and reconcile military training and also military experience with family life and civilian life once you come home.”
The couple hopes to use what they have learned through their own experience to encourage other military families who may be going through a similar situation.
They offer a closed-off area to service members filled with resources and literature. There are also military hours every Thursday at 9 a.m. and Monday at 3 p.m.
“Our number one requirement when we started this place was to have a space where veterans and military can go in and meet together and close the door and share whatever they want with each other and give them a safe and comfortable space where they know we have all been on the same road or all kind of have similar experiences,” Ashley said.
Ashely has also created a group for military families, giving husbands and wives an opportunity to meet.
“One thing that is really important to me in this space is to also recognize the family as a whole,” said Ashley. “I have learned a lot about how do I love him and support him and help him in the way that I vowed to do.”
Pay what you want pricing
Don’t expect to see a pricing menu at Sojourner’s. The Kings moved to donation-based giving in June 2021.
“At first thought, I said it’s nuts. This is crazy. How are we going to do this, but just trust in the Lord and know everything is going to be alright,” Larry said.
So far so good. Larry and Ashley said most people do not take advantage of the so-called free menu items.
“Most people understand when they come in here and see this place and see the people here and the veterans here, they understand what their donation is going towards,” Ashley said.
“I come here purposefully for the veterans. I love what they are doing here, you know. They are giving back. You can buy coffee anywhere so why not do something that is going to give back to the veterans. That’s why I do it,” said Sojourner’s customer Darrel Young.
What money is made is put back into the business. If there is excess, the Kings will donate it to other veteran-based nonprofits like Wichita’s Passageways, a nonprofit offering veterans temporary housing and support.
“It opens the door for us to serve absolutely anyone,” Ashely said.
“I get fulfillment out of being a part of this, you know, just what God has laid on my heart is to be there for my brothers and sisters,” Larry said.
Sojourner’s is open Monday through Saturday.