The community celebrated Eleos Coffee’s tenth anniversary on Saturday with a fall festival in the parking lot of 3401 Independence Avenue.
Perfectly paired with the autumn weather, visitors played yard games and warmed up by the fire pit while sipping Eleos coffee. They appreciated the artwork of those who take art therapy classes at the café, and waited for their chance to win prizes being raffled off.
In 2011, the café was the first of its kind in Northeast, before PH Coffee and Splitlog, but their passion runs deeper than coffee. They began with the idea of using the coffee house as a catalyst for making change in the community. A decade later, Eleos still stands firm in its mission.
“It hasn’t evolved much in that we started wanting to see community transformation, and that’s still our goal, is to see the neighborhood just really revived through the good news of God’s love in Jesus, as well as just helping people in practical ways, with compassion,” said Eleos founder Dan Smith.
In many ways, they’re doing the same things today that they did 10 years ago, but it has evolved in the sense of deeper relationships with people, where they’ve been able to walk with folks that are struggling with things that take them years to work through.
“The evolution of relationships, as well as I’d say maybe the evolution of how we connect with people, and what we view as important, is not necessarily important to them,” Smith said. “We got to figure out, ‘Okay, what’s important to them? Where do they see the things that they need, rather than us trying to impose that on them?’ So when we first came here, we had that mindset of we’re going to kind of bring a suburban mentality into the dynamic, and we’ve learned to try to listen to more.”
Catie Harbor, Director of Community Impact, saw regular customers, friends from church, people from the neighborhood, and new faces.
“It’s a whole mix, there’s a lot of people that used to be on staff several years ago – people I don’t know as well – but then we have a lot of our regulars that come in every day, some of our really consistent volunteers and staff members,” Harbor said. “So it’s a really fun mix. We tried to hang some extra banners and signs, we’re hoping that people from the local streets will come over that we don’t always see every day.”
Head Roaster Vicky Pjecha gave a coffee roasting demonstration on a small roaster, sharing how the process works.
“We’re going to talk about the coffee cherry and how it’s processed so that we get green coffee,” Pjecha said. “And then I’m going to talk a little bit about roasting and how – while this is technically a drum roaster – it’s significantly different from our production roaster, it’s just a little rinky-dink home roaster.”
While the coffee’s roasting – it’s an 11-minute process – visitors tasted varieties of coffee and Pjecha had them guess the flavor notes, with the winner going home with a bag of Eleos coffee.
“We’ll talk about what they taste – fruity, nutty or earthy – and then with the process of elimination people can guess what they think it is,” Pjecha said.
Eleos staff plan to continue evaluating and thinking outside the box when it comes to how they serve the community. The Lykins Neighborhood Association is supporting Smith’s plan to acquire a vacant house on Indiana Avenue that has been associated with negative activity and fallen into disrepair.
“We’re excited about that, and we really want to use it for transitional housing with people that have demonstrated desire and have already taken certain steps toward that path toward recovery,” Smith said. “So we’d love to see them have a place to live for a while.”
For months, they have been working to resolve problems at the house with other community partners, like the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District, the Kansas City Police Department, and others.
“I really like Eleos Coffee House there because they are such a contribution to the neighborhood, and they just do wonderful things,” said Lykins resident Sam Crowley. “And I try to support them in any way that I can.”
Since then, the exterior of the house and sidewalk have been cleaned up, entrances secured, and a fundraiser started to rehabilitate the house.
Pjecha and Harbor discussed the 10 year anniversary and the plans for the home on Indiana Avenue on a recent episode (204) of the Northeast Newscast. For more information on the fundraiser or Eleos Coffee, visit eleoscoffee.com.