When Miranda Spindt of Genesee Depot told her daughter and son to help people and find ways to give back, she didn't necessarily envision creating something brand-new in Waukesha.
Spindt teamed up with Cafe de Arts owner Ayhan Munzur in an unusual way to start a "suspended coffee" program.
"My 13-year-old daughter saw this thing about suspended coffee on Facebook," Spindt said with a smile. "I started reading about it, and it sounded just so simple and so kind. I always want to show my kids examples of this, so I decided to call a couple of coffee shops, and only Ayhan responded."
Occasionally Facebook or Twitter tell tales of someone having their drink purchased at Starbucks or McDonalds by those ahead of them in line, but the suspended coffee movement takes that idea and shrinks it to a community level that doesn't just help someone; it helps the someones who need it the most.
Suspended coffee is an international campaign meant to pay it forward to those who may be down on their luck. The idea is pretty simple: You buy a coffee for yourself, and you have the option to buy a cup for someone in need.
At Café de Arts in Waukesha, it's as little as $1.94. If you chose to buy a suspended coffee, you add that to your total, and they hand you a business card. You can sign your name or a word or two of encouragement and then leave it there.
After accumulating a group of cards, Spindt and Munzur connect with a place in need and hand out the cards to those who need them.
"We take them directly to charities. So far we've done the Hope Center, the Hebron House and East Garden Apartments," Spindt said. "We also took cards for the employees at the Caring Place, which is a dementia center, as a thank-you. It takes a lot of coffee to do what they do."
Munzur said he tried to connect to people and places within walking distance of the shop so people can walk in no matter what their circumstance and exchange that card for a large coffee free of charge whenever they need it.
"It's all about community. We search for charities that really need it, for people who are really in need of a good cup of coffee and a smile," Munzur said. "We're right on the bus line, so we really stick to this community and people who can get here easily by walking or taking that bus."
Spindt said that while an alternative would be just taking the coffee to those locations, she feels the suspended coffee program actually helps people more.
"Coffee only stays fresh for a few hours, and sometimes when we could provide it is not when they need it. We like the fact that they can come in when they want or save that card for a special day," Spindt said.
Spindt has helped Munzur with the program, using online tools that are set up specifically for suspended coffee programs.
The program, which started at the end of March, is already growing. Munzur is working with local church groups who want to donate and said he hopes to expand the program possibly to include baked goods for those who do not necessarily care for coffee. Munzur said he hopes by this winter to have the entire program in full swing.
"We appreciate everyone's support. It's just been great," Munzur said. "I was so happy when the cards started coming back, and today I had two ladies come in together with cards, and they got to enjoy breakfast together. It was amazing."
The program has purchased more than 150 coffees that have been distributed to four locations.
"There's just something about a warm cup of coffee," Spindt said, "and most people can spare a couple of bucks."