At Donkey Coffee, you can add a dash of politics to your fair-trade coffee

“Would you like a side of politics with that?”

Athens, Ohio is abundant in businesses that mix their service to customers with political discourse. From Avalanche Pizza’s caricatures of presidential candidates to Little Fish’s “No Fracking Way” beer brewed with all Ohio ingredients, Southeast Ohioans are accustomed to seeing politics on the menu.

A politically-minded Athens business that stands out to me is Donkey Coffee, who stirs a little social justice into your otherwise average cup of fair-trade joe. Donkey continues to be a leading coffee joint in Athens not only for their comfy couches and cozy ambiance, but because of their devotion to community outreach and promotion of political discourse.

Their website bares a list of organizations who they support that “fundamentally positively influence people.” The list includes groups such as Amnesty International, Fair Trade USA, Pregnancy Resource Center and My Sisters Place.

donkeycoffee.com continues:

“We are committed to promoting social justice and the arts in our community and throughout the world through public awareness, serving, and financial giving. This is the heart of what Donkey is about.”

They took their loyalty to the enrichment of the community one step further this week by having customers rattle off their favorite part of the Constitution in trade for a drink on the house.

Yesterday, Donkey Coffee started the work week by observing an all-American event that took place on September 17, 1787. Baristas celebrated the signing of the Constitution by trading a customer’s favorite constitutional right for a free coffee drink.

This was a part of Donkey’s recent “Free Drink Monday” event.  After I recited Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution (which provides some much-needed accountability to Congress), Michael, one of the baristas, told me the story of the couple that inspired the weekly freebie.

You can thank two Donkey frequenters Steve and Janet for your free power chai latte each Monday. Michael said the couple were such loyal customers that they accrued upwards of 4,000 points on their Donkey Coffee rewards card. Each drink equals one point (and after 10 points, you receive a free drink) so you can definitely say they were regulars.

Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.
Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.

They never spent their points and eventually moved out of town, so they donated the thousands of points to the customers of Donkey. So each week, Donkey asks their customers to recite a poem about Donkey Coffee, or dance for 10 seconds or like yesterday, share their favorite constitutional right of theirs, to use Steve and Janet’s donation.

Donkey continues to be my go-to spot to sip on an iced latte over statistics homework, not only for their plentitude of power outlets and couches, but because you might get into an interesting discussion over the patriarchy or systemic racism with your barista.

And has anyone else thought about the fact that the name of their coffee shop just so happens to be the symbol of a major political party? Maybe it’s just me.

Regardless of political preference, Athenians will continue to get their coffee fix from Donkey for years to come.

 

 

Dinner with a side of community

Transcript

Athens, OH: the most impoverished county in the state. Last month’s Ohio Poverty Report said 51 percent of residents– about 13,000 people– live below self-sufficiency and 16 percent rely on food stamps.

Those food stamps only add up to about $110 per week, though, hardly enough to feed a family. Community members and university students help fill those gaps.

“Sure it’s important to prep food and get it to people who need food, but the primary goal is create an experience of community. So it’s not people standing behind a counter serving food.”

That’s Evan Young, the campus minister at the town’s United Campus ministry. The organization is a center for spiritual growth, social justice, and, for over two decades, it’s also been the host of community meals. Yes, that’s their specific term– community meal.

“The idea is that we are not just a soup kitchen– the idea is that it’s a community meal. So all these people are coming together to build friendships and connect with each other over food.”

That’s how Kelli Wanamaker describes it. She’s a UCM Free Meal Intern, a position she’s held for 2 years. Evan says people like Kelli are the reason these meals exist.

“Thursday supper and Saturday lunch exist because students who are involved and engaged in the community looked around and saw a need. They said there are a lot of hungry people here and no free meal on Thursdays.. We have this space, what can we do?”

What they manage to pull off takes days of preparation. Jackie Duffy is a Social Work Intern at UCM.

“So usually on Tuesday we’ll come in …. and we’ll see what kind of ingredients there are, what donations we’ve gotten, what we have in the freezers and all that sort of thing. It’s about a 2day prep i would say. Come in on Thursday and make a shopping list. We get donations from tons of organizations, Athens community members, former interns, churches, etc.”

Evan says the community’s support is imperative, but it’s also increasingly impressive. The night I went to eat with them, I was expecting pots and pans and casseroles of homemade dishes. That happens most of the time, but when I walked in and saw pizza delivery boxes, I was… surprised.

“Avalanche donates the pizza. That’s great! We have a relationship with chipotle, they donate some of their leftover food. Pigskin, every now and then they’ll show up with a tray of pork loin.. It’s like Thursday night we made this for you. Awesome! That’s great!”

And who is enjoying this food? Ask Miranda McKinney, another Free Meal Intern, and she’ll tell you why that’s her favorite part of the job.

“They are for everybody. I think that’s what’s so great is it’s not just students, it’s not just community members, it’s not just old people… i can sit down and have a convo with people who are 60 or 16 or 6.”

I spoke to David Hardinger, an Athens man who had stopped by for a free meal.

“How long have you been coming to free meals? About 10 years…. Why do you like coming here? To socialize with my friends.”

David told me his favorite meal UCM cooks is chicken, but he asked me to make them serve Sheppard’s Pie one of these days. I told him they would need a lot of pies. There were about 30 people in the room that night, but the space was only half full.

“The level at which it’s utilized varies with the economy… a few years ago with the recession, we were seeing between 50-75 people a night. It’s less now, things are not quite as dire.”

Community members and university students serve free meals 6 days a week throughout the town– you can find a list of the locations on CourtStreetStories.com. No matter the organization serving food, though, one thing is for certain:

“You just come in and eat, whether you really need it or you don’t.”

For CourtStreetStories, I’m Bianca Hillier.


Free Meals in Athens, OH

Monday:

First United Methodist Church

2 South College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-3977

Time: Noon


Tuesday:

Athens Church of Christ

785 West Union Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7414

Time: 5:30 pm

 

Wednesday:

Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd

64 University Terrace

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-6877

Time: Noon

 

Friends and Neighbors Community Center

24576 Parkersburg Road

Coolville, OH 45723

(740) 667-0684

Time: Noon

 

Thursday:

United Campus Ministry (UCM)

18 North College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7301         

Time: 5:30 pm

 

Friday:

Good Works

location of meal changes seasonally; call ahead for directions

(740) 594-3339

Time: 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm

 

Saturday:

United Campus Ministry (UCM)

18 North College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7301

Time: Noon