By Tom Jastermsky
Sometimes a small cup of coffee can make a big difference. It can be a taste of home for members of the military abroad, offering consistency and comfort in difficult times.
Since 2006, Holy Joe’s Café has been an all-volunteer outreach program sending free coffee to deployed chaplains who are embedded with troops throughout the world. The organization is based out of The First Congregational Church in Wallingford, Connecticut.
This relaxing and informal setting gives soldiers an opportunity to decompress, relax and speak with a chaplain — while also enjoying a good cup coffee.
“Holy Joe’s Café is the conduit for chaplains who set up an oasis not in size but in purpose. It’s the ‘taste of home’ through coffee which is the most important place for people when they are in the midst of great havoc,” says Chaplain Daniel Middlebrooks.
The program started providing free coffee to one location, the Sather Air Base Chapel in Bagdad, where one of our church members was deployed with the Connecticut Air National Guard.
At the time, Air Force Chaplain Timothy Sturgill was paying out of his own pocket to provide coffee 24/7 to all military personnel on the base, plus all the service members arriving into Iraq.
Once word of Chaplain Sturgill’s efforts reached us back in Wallingford, we jumped into action – creating the foundation for Holy Joe’s Café.
The responses have been enormous from churches, coffee companies like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and transportation and logistics carriers. Carol Wallace, CEO of Cooper-Atkins in Middlefield, CT, and her staff committed to help with shipping at the beginning – and have been a part of our operations ever since.
In the last nine years, Holy Joe’s Café has grown immensely. We currently ship coffee to hundreds of military locations including small Forward Operating Bases, hangar bays, hospitals, aid stations and any other setting where we’re needed. Today, thousands of free cups of coffee are served to our troops in 35 countries throughout the world.
All service personnel of any denomination are welcome – including NATO troops from other countries that share the same base. We want to promote a place for relaxation, focusing on great coffee and conversation. It is vital for our troops to have a place to decompress.
Holy Joe’s Café has become a dynamic part of our Chaplains 24/7/365 service to the troops, which also includes: helping soldiers with family emergencies, care for wounded soldiers, conducting memorial services for the fallen, and counseling survivors when a soldier is killed in battle. Soldiers are allowed complete confidentiality to express themselves to the Chaplains.
“Holy Joe’s Café is a place where chaplains in makeshift chapels are able to bring a taste of home to the tired, the anxious, the angry, the lonely and the wounded,” says Chaplain Andrew Sholtes. “They all can get a gourmet coffee, a reminder that the world they willingly left behind still cares.”
If you’re looking to help support this cause, Holy Joe’s Café can always use more coffee as well as financial donations to maintain this critical mission of support for troops stationed throughout the world. Please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (203) 859-0031. You can also find us on Facebook.
There are no days off for Holy Joe’s Café, we are completely volunteer with no paid staff. Your help and support is truly appreciated.
Photo Credit: Holy Joe’s Café