A coffee shop in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, is serving up hope to addicts, alongside sticky buns and other goodies.
Hope & Coffee, located in Swatara Township, opened July 19, 2018. Its goal is to help struggling drug addicts and to help remove the stigma surrounding the problem.
Manager Loren Collura told WNEP:
“People are noticing us and walking by and seeing our balloons out and seeing what they’re all about.”
Opening day was soft in order to introduce customers to the mission of Hope & Coffee, yet visitors said it was still quite busy. Everyone employed by the shop is either a recovering drug addict, or knows someone who is.
“There isn’t anywhere that people can feel comfortable, a substance-free environment that is non-judgmental, that they feel happy and comfortable to go to, feel like they’re at home.”
Employee Steve Schickram is 288 days clean. After an “incident” that sent him to a hospital, he struggled to find a job and a place to live, he said. The coffee shop’s opening couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It felt like the position opened up right as I was going into recovery.”
Every aspect of Hope & Coffee was created by people in recovery, from the renovation of the 1865 Victorian home that houses the coffee shop, right down to the coffee bar itself. They also supply the coffee beans and manage the operation.
But the shop will offer more than tasty Danish, free WiFi, and freshly brewed cups of joe. Eventually, upstairs rooms will offer space for recovery meetings. Officials hope Hope & Coffee will fund an endowment to match people in early recovery with other employers in the area.
Lisa Scheller is the brains behind the operation. The chairwoman of a company that manufactures metallic pigments pledged $300,000 to get the coffee shop off the ground.
Scheller is 35 years sober and she knew she had to do something to help fellow addicts after she saw the area overcome by the opioid epidemic. She said she had to shed her own “coat of shame and anonymity” about her past to play an active role in the nonprofit to “shine the brightest light to show that addiction can happen to anyone, and recovery is possible. Not just for me, but for everyone who embraces it.”
Tamaqua is located in Pennsylvania’s coal region, and like many small towns across America, it has been devastated by opioids. Local funeral home director Eric Zizelmann estimates that 1 in 10 deaths in Tamaqua last year was drug-related.
Sica Brown is a supervisor at Hope & Coffee, and the single mother of a 1-year-old. After being addicted to heroin for years and spending time in jail, she found it next to impossible to find a job. She always seemed like a great fit … until a potential employer ran a background check on her.
“Everybody loved me in person, but as soon as they ran a background check and looked at my history, my past, they didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
Then, someone handed her a flyer about Hope & Coffee while Brown was engrossed in intensive outpatient recovery, and was “an absolute life-changer,” Brown said.
“My son now has a mother who has confidence, who has an amazing foundation. It was like the whole world was against me until I was handed that flyer.”