Coffee shop in Grafton supports Catholic schools and parish in Haiti

by Paul Braun | New Earth

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New windows and signage greet customers at Grafton’s Haiti’s Daily Grind Coffee Shop, located at 24 East 5th Street in Grafton. (Paul Braun/New Earth)

Open the door at lunchtime and immediately you are greeted with the sumptuous aroma of freshly brewed coffee, caramel rolls and the daily special. The small coffee shop, locally known as the Daily Grind, has been in operation in Grafton for about 25 years. But recently, the shop’s name, and purpose, have taken on a different look and mission.

Now known as Haiti’s Daily Grind, the coffee shop exists for the sole purpose of raising money and awareness for St. Yves Catholic Parish and schools in Savanette Cabrale, Haiti. St. Yves is the twin-parish of St. John the Evangelist Church in Grafton, which has been sponsoring churches and schools in Haiti for over 25 years. The idea to use a coffee shop as a means to fund a charitable project came from St. John’s current pastor, Father Tim Schroeder.

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Regular customers enjoy coffee, lunch and each other’s company at Haiti’s Daily Grind Coffee Shop in Grafton. (Paul Braun/New Earth)

“The Daily Grind Coffee Shop has been in the community for many years, but the former owners decided to sell it, and there was a risk that it would cease to be a coffee shop,” says Father Schroeder. “Rather than risk losing a popular business in town, I decided to buy it as a means to keep it open and use the profits to help our Haiti project. That’s why it’s called Haiti’s Daily Grind. It keeps the name of the shop, as it has been known to locals, while raising awareness of what we are trying to accomplish.”

While Father Schroeder is the financial backer of the coffee shop, his obligations and duties as pastor of St. John’s prevent him from having any day-to-day involvement with its operation. That responsibility belongs to full-time manager Brigita Bovaird, a member of the St. John’s Haiti Committee. Brigita and another part-time employee make sure the shop is stocked, clean and ready for business.

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HaitianSchool students waiting for Mass to start at one of the chapel schools run by St. Yves Parish in Savanette Cabrale, Haiti. (Submitted photo)

Coffee is freshly ground and brewed daily, and the shop offers a variety of freshly-prepared sandwiches and soups, along with pastry items, to serve the lunch crowd. Several varieties of whole-bean coffee are available for sale, including some varieties grown in Haiti itself. There is also Haitian artwork on the walls that customers may purchase, with all after-cost proceeds going to the Haiti church and schools. Father Schroeder’s ultimate goal is to eventually sell the coffee shop to Brigita and allow her to continue operating it for the benefit of the St. John’s Haiti project.

A Great Need

According to an informational brochure available at the coffee shop, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Over 10 million people live in an area about one-seventh the size of North Dakota. Sixty-percent of Haitians live in poverty, with 25% living in what is called “abject poverty.” St. John’s Church provides a monthly donation of $1,000 to help St. Yves pay for teacher and administrator salaries for the schools. The average pay for a teacher is between $55 and $65 dollars a month, with administrators making just under $200 a month. School cooks make about $20 a month.

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A young school student admires a cross that was given to her by visitors from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Grafton. (Submitted photo)

There are three Catholic schools run by St. Yves, and the largest school has about 100 students. All grades are taught under one roof with no walls, so noise and distractions are a problem. There is a great need to build a proper school building with classrooms and sanitary facilities in order to expand the curriculum beyond the primary grades. That is just one of the future goals Father Schroeder and the Haiti Committee at St. John’s have in mind.

“They need bathrooms, classrooms and the like,” says Father Schroeder. “The earthquake in 2010 was a low-rippling quake, so it destroyed much of the sewer systems. Then Hurricane Matthew came through and destroyed the country’s trees and agricultural industry. Those trees helped to prevent mudslides, which are more prevalent today because the hurricane swept many of those trees away.”

Students don’t live at the schools; many of them walk up to five miles to get to school. Father Schroeder says nearly half of the youngsters are orphans. The schools provide students one meal per day, and for many that is the only meal they will receive that day. The schools are the only real hope for these kids to lift them out of their poverty through education. The focus on education helps to build a foundation for students to improve their quality of life and to keep that foundation for future generations.

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(Left to right) Deacon Mike Grzadzielewski, St. John’s Parish, Grafton; Father Wilfranc Servil, Pastor of St. Yves Parish in Savanette Cabrale, Haiti; and Father Tim Schroeder, Pastor of St. John’s in Grafton. (Submitted photo)

The Haiti Committee at St. John’s has committed to building an eight-room modern school. Money for the project is raised through special raffles, silent auctions, dinners and events, private donations, and now, the coffee shop. Donations help offset the $1,000 monthly commitment already in place, which is primarily funded from a percentage of the monthly offertory collections during Mass at St. John’s. Some donors even sponsor a teacher every month and provide the means to pay the teacher’s salary. Father Schroeder and members of the Haiti Committee make yearly visits to St. Yves to check on progress and to bring hope to the parishioners and students.

“To me, a huge part of pastoring is to be aware of the poor,’ says Father Schroeder. “When I go down there, I meet so many people I otherwise never would have met, and that’s part of our outreach.”

That outreach also extends to Grafton and the surrounding communities, getting the word out about Haiti’s Daily Grind and the good works provided by the shop’s profits. Father Schroeder hopes the coffee shop will be a must-stop for visitors and locals alike, who with every sip of coffee, slurp of soup, or bite of a sandwich, help to give hope to school children who are desperate for the chance to be all they can be in life. Bon appetite!