The following is a guest post submitted to The First Pull. See our guest post guidelines.
For the troops out in the field, even just a cup of coffee can bring the taste of home. Having a moment of down time with fellow active duty military personnel can help alleviate stress and build camaraderie.
Since 2006, Holy Joe’s Café has been sending free coffee and supplies to deployed U.S. military chaplains on military bases around the world. Here, anyone on the base — from NATO medical teams to Special Operating Forces — can stop in to relax and share in a taste of home. All are welcome, no matter their faith or background.
“Every time they have a cup of coffee, they are reminded that somebody cares about them. Even though I may only walk through the unit a couple times a month, the Chaplains Corps presence is felt on a daily basis, which is huge,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Keith Manry, 36th Wing chaplain.
From our humble beginning collecting cans of coffee in a church in Wallingford, Connecticut, Holy Joe’s has grown to serve billions of cups of coffee. We’ve helped open more than 300 coffee houses throughout the world, mainly in the Middle East but also in places like Africa, Europe, and even on board Navy ships and in NATO military hospitals. We currently ship coffee to hundreds of military locations including small Forward Operating Bases, hangar bays, hospitals, aid stations, and any other setting we’re needed.
Today we serve free coffee — and other donations, like Girl Scout Cookies — to military folks in over 70 countries. Over the years, many companies and organizations have donated or provided deeply discounted coffee, supplies, and donations to our effort. Last year alone, Holy Joe’s received over 36 million K-cups.
Holy Joe’s also receives free warehousing and donated or discounted shipping depending on the amount of coffee that is donated. Tom Jastermsky, Holy Joe’s Founder and Executive Director, collaborates closely with the deploying military to coordinate logistical needs with Space-A (Space Available) military flights for delivering our pallets of coffee. The U.S. military communicates directly with Holy Joe’s about where there is space available on cargo flights or ships and we engage our network of volunteer logistics companies to coordinate delivery to that deploying U.S. military base. Here in Connecticut, a locally-based company donates warehouse space for donations until they are sent out to where they are needed.
Yet the demand for more coffee has been extremely high. There are often times when Holy Joe’s does not have enough coffee to send to all locations where it is needed. In those cases, we give priority to the Special Forces or otherwise known as SOCOM (Special Forces Command), which includes the Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and the Marine’s MARSOC, to name but a few.
A cup of coffee is the conduit, it brings service men and women together. Military chaplains receive the coffee and setup places where military personnel can get a cup and possibly chat while they drink. In places where operations run 24 hours a day, coffee can be very important.
Army Chaplain (CPT) Charlene Johnson-Sabedra who served in Afghanistan says soldiers can’t get regular access to their dining halls outside of meal times, so the “cafés” become important gathering places. Since those cafés are located near the chaplain’s office, it enables the chaplain to stop in and talk, supporting the mental and spiritual health of on duty personnel.
“We have a greater opportunity to build positive relationships with soldiers,” says Johnson-Sabedra. “Coffee creates an inviting space for soldiers to come and seek help when they need it.”