SEDGWICK, Kan. (KSNW) – Perhaps the only thing sweeter than the drinks and treats served at a coffee shop in Sedgwick is the community spirit that started it all!
“A few families just coming together and starting to dream how to make a difference in the lives of kids,” said Damon Young, president of the non-profit called Sedgwick Meeting House, Incorporated.
“For the longest time, except for the two restaurants in town, there wasn’t a place in town for kids to hang out, and there needed to be,” said board member, Kelley DeGraffenreid.
The DeGraffenreids bought an old building in town, and the brainchild of a few became a mission for many.
“Tons of volunteers,” said DeGraffenreid. “Most of the work done on the inside of this building was done with volunteer labor.”
Now called The Meeting House, it’s a fun place for teens who used to have few options.
“When I was younger, we would mostly just go to the gas station,” said student, Laurel Nicholson.
But at the coffee shop, kids are encouraged to loiter!
The games are free, and the artwork on the walls is theirs. Even a stage welcomes them to perform.
To make sure no one is left out, customers are encouraged to pay it forward by donating to a gift card. If anyone can’t afford food or drink, the card will cover it.
On Mondays, The Meeting House even provides free snacks after school.
The business is not profitable yet, but it is paying off in other ways.
“It just seems like when they get in here, there’s no clique,” said manager, Heather Tucker. “It just breaks down walls.”
Tucker puts many students to work, some as part of a school internship.
Others are volunteers of all ages and abilities, another chance to connect.
“I like it,” said Nicholson. “I enjoy talking to all different kinds of people so I like the variety.”
With so much positivity inside the coffee shop, the founders wondered, What if it sparked change on the outside?
“That’s our favorite words, ‘What if…we did this?’ And we want to be a group of adults that come around them and say, ‘Yea, that’s possible,'” said Young.
Thanks to one teen’s idea, “The Meeting House” now gives out college scholarhips for projects that help their hometown.
Last year, they awarded a total of $2,500 between three high school seniors, and this year’s winners will be announced in May.
The Meeting House is open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.