One Coffee Cup
One Changed Life
Johannah Hagar, Social Enterprise Director, gives me a personal tour of the Bike Union's building.
"When you patronize our bike shop and coffeehouse, you are supporting an organization with a purpose – an organization that gives right back to our community."
On a clear day and a refreshing break from the frigid air of each previous location on tour, I couldn’t help but cater to the sudden burst of energy I felt from the sun. Briskly walking about the capital city Omaha Nebraska, my eyes and psyche were as split as the concept of architecture before me. Everywhere I looked, there were brick buildings of the past, blanketed by clear sheets of metal and glass, representing the many stages of advancement and reputative preference over the last century. The only thread of commonality that bonded the buildings was a bland shade of beige.
I suddenly realized as I looked around every corner, that I was surrounded by beige. Without a drop of color or contrast, I almost felt like I had stepped into a video game sequence where at any minute, a beige monster could come around the corner and drain my life energy. I have never seen a place like Omaha in all my travels. The thought of taking a paint bucket of bright crimson red and pouring the contents over the streets and bricks gave me a thrill. At once before me, a structure expressing a different meaning, with structural curvatures and large fonts expressing human rights in the windows, took me out of my vandalism fantasy. Beside the fact that any sign with the word “coffee” has my loyalty. This led me to find the most brilliant of colors bursting from the center of Omaha, a non-profit gift to the local community by the name of “The Bike Union and Coffee.”
As you walk into the arched building, you are surrounded by an uncommon lounge of bicycles and resting spots of chairs and books. Several feet directly in front of you, a window where the aroma of coffee beans fills the building. Somehow, they make circumferential sense of it all and you stand there wondering why you haven’t mixed bicycles with books and coffee before. (Perhaps you have, and you’d be my new best friend).
I was given a tour by Johannah, the Social Enterprise Manager of the Bike Union Mentoring Project. The Bike Union Mentoring project provides workforce development and social skills for young adults impacted by the foster care system. She warmly accepted my curiosity and presence and took the time to walk me through each level of the building, explaining to me how they were using the spaces and why.
The Bike Union provides year long, part time employment and mentoring for youth. Employees have the opportunity to work in a retail shop, gain customer service experience, learn the skills to be a barista, and learn how to work on bikes. Additionally, everyone participates in financial literacy classes, health and nutrition classes, book club, mindfulness meditation classes, and other life skills programming. At all times program participants are surrounded by a network of positive support that follows them even when they transition on to new employment. During the summer months The Bike Union facilitates a mountain bike program for youth called BUMP. Youth from Girls Inc. and Child Saving Institute are introduced to mountain biking and taken on weekly rides by a team of volunteer mentors. The program aims to introduce youth to a fun way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and build their self-esteem (TheBikeUnion.org).
I was choked up. It’s been a long time since I felt a surge of purpose and belonging the way Johannah’s spirit and knowledge was allowing to unfold within me. Mixing the two most passionate interests I have in life, community outreach and of course, coffee, sent electricity through my body and I felt blissful and hopeful. I regained trust in the intentions of others as gratitude began pulsating through my heart’s weakened veins. On their coffee cup sleeves, are stamped the words “One Coffee Cup, One Changed Life.”
Please send them some love and gratitude for their consistency in serving the community of Omaha. They have many needs and I believe every community should ensure sustainability of these types of services to people. Perhaps if communities across the US helped one another thrive in these efforts, we’d all find that it is indeed possible to rise together in an overall purpose that gives America a better reputation and longevity of connection and healing.
Please visit the Bike Union and Coffee and give your support:
The Bike Union and Coffee
1818 Dodge Street
Omaha, NE 68102