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Opportunity Café offers hope and long-term help

Opportunity Café is everything a good coffee shop should be. From the rustic barn wood walls to the bright overstuffed chairs, paired with the good, simple smell of coffee and fragrant baked goods, it invites guests to have a seat and stay awhile.

It also offers something more. Hope. And the opportunity for growth.

Opportunity Café is part of Meet the Need, a non-profit that provides work assistance to local families. The organization helps people who need help with fuel, car parts, licensing, work clothing – items that individuals need to get or keep employment, but may be unable to provide because of low wages, reduced hours, or emergencies.

The decor invites people in.

For Executive Director Kris Peoples, the coffee shop café is the “means to an end.” It’s not about profit, but about creating enough probability that it can sustain an even bigger dream, aimed at helping those who want more than just help, but want to get started in life.

“I’d like to eventually bring in kids who have aged  out of the foster system, who need job experience and a work history. I want to house them at the same time, so they can save their wages.”

Peoples explained how, once youth “age out” of the foster care system at 18, they are given $500 and no support. She hopes that eventually Meet the Need can provide that support — both through housing and a way to give them much needed job experience in food service, barista training, customer service, and more.

Peoples has also made the decision to open up the Café to more, in order to “meet the need” in as many ways as possible. Currently, Opportunity Café will now host an addiction support group.

“In the course of everything we’ve done here at Meet the Need, we could tell this was something we needed in this community,” Peoples explained.

Called “Freedom from Addiction,” the support group is led by Buddy Eason, and held on the first and third Sundays of the month, at 6 p.m. Although it is a faith-based group, everyone seeking relief from any sort of addiction, regardless of religion, is invited to attend.

In addition, Opportunity Café is also hosting what they call “coffee shop church,” aimed at reaching those who can’t get to church during traditional hours, or who are curious about Christianity but would like to approach it in a more casual, relaxed environment.

All of this goes back to People’s driving idea behind Meet the Need and all that supports it.

“If they won’t come to us, we will come to them,” she said.

These long-term goals Peoples has for Meet the Need seem wide in scope, but this is an organization that literally rose from the ashes. After a fire destroyed the original building, the organization was initially facing massive loss, since the rebuild costs far exceeded what they had been allowed to insure it. Between the cost to clear the burned rubble, hiring an architect to draw up plans, and then the building costs, too, Meet the Need was running at a deficit.

The cafe offers plenty of seating.

But many within the community stepped up and volunteered with time, talent and labor, and they were able to rebuild from those ashes. In fact, when all was completed, the mortgage for the brand-new building was actually smaller than the original building’s mortgage.

“I call it God’s math,” Peoples laughed. “It drives my CPA daughter nuts.”

Even then, Peoples had a plan for the space that Opportunity Café now occupies. It was simply roughed in when the building was rebuilt. At various times, people would wonder about renting it out, but Peoples declined. In 2017, Peoples approached Goppert Financial Bank with the hopes that Meet the Need could secure a loan to realize her goal of providing long-term assistance to those in need within the community.

Instead of loaning the money, The Goppert Foundation stepped up and gifted Meet the Need with $82,000. It was enough to get started. And what the funds didn’t cover, others stepped forth with their own time and talents. At one point, fifteen different electricians all came and volunteered.

The wood lining the walls at the Opportunity Cafe came from this barn.

“Even this barn wood was found and given to us,” Peoples said.

But Opportunity Café and Meet the Need are much more than just the building.

“The heart of the people that makes it what it is,” Peoples said.

By Samantha Kilgore •

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2 Responses to Opportunity Café offers hope and long-term help

  1. Dan Reply

    April 4, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Where is it located?

    • Brittany Zegers Reply

      April 4, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Opportunity Cafe is located next to Meet the Need in Excelsior Springs, at 1302 N. Jesse James Rd., Excelsior Springs, MO 64024.

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