A house in West Jackson that has meant so much to so many, it has been a hopeful place in the community where any person from any walk of life can go and feel welcomed and comfortable. This house was once Koinonia Coffee House, a place that was started to help people and constantly facilitate a kind and loving environment. Now the house will be continuing that legacy with the help of Jeff Good and Jordan Butler.
Jeff Good is working to restore confidence to our community’s often overlooked youth through Café Refill.
By Joe Lee | Photos by Michael Barrett
When Jeff Good closes his eyes and pictures the Refill Café, he sees much more than a top-notch group of managers and employees serving coffee drinks and scratch-made meals to customers. The business, which will open in the old Koinonia Coffee House on the Jackson State University Parkway, will simultaneously operate as a restaurant while providing – in a different part of the facility – crucial real-world life skills to young people hoping to join the team. If all goes well, those up-and-comers will want to train and mentor their successors.
“Refill will meet each enrollee ‘where they are’ and provide guidance, support, advocacy and confidence. It will bring about change and growth in the people who are the hands preparing and serving the dishes,” said Jeff, president of Mangia Bene Restaurant Management Group which owns and operates Bravo, Broad Street and Sal and Mookie’s of Jackson. “The feel of the space will be that of collaboration, cooperation and pride. Teams are amazing things when they gel, and that will be the core element of Refill – a team.”
A planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Corporation has allowed Project Manager Jordan Butler to design the trainee programming and bring the project as a whole close to fruition. With the Kellogg grant expiring at the end of August, Refill will apply for an implementation grant to help open the facility around Thanksgiving and offer the first training class in early 2019. Jordan will draw heavily on her time with Café Reconcile in New Orleans, which has thrived for seventeen years and also benefitted from a Kellogg grant.
“The program is targeted toward young adults who are potentially not really ready for the college or community college scene just yet,” said Jordan, who graduated from Murrah High School in 2004 and holds master’s degrees in public service and public health. “Maybe they have not held a job at all, or not had a good job experience – they need some of the self-management skills and feedback to get that initial job. We have an open-door policy; as far as screening, the only qualification is that one commit to the entire training program.”
Jordan said enrollees can plan on forty hours a week in class for eight weeks and maybe longer, with emphasis put on everything from resume building to sex education and anger management. “In the building we bought,” she said, “we have two apartments upstairs and will be creating offices and classroom space upstairs. Maybe the restaurant will be open for lunch – or maybe for breakfast – during the period trainees are there in class.”
“Around the midway point, students get uniforms and certification and shadow the staff. Café Reconcile has, on average, about twelve to sixteen students that graduate. I think we’ll start smaller, probably six to ten, and build from there. It’s a holistic, innovative program; one of the innovative parts is that you get paid through the training program. Not a living wage, but a stipend that increases over the duration. It helps with muscle memory – getting them used to earning money on a schedule and the responsibilities they have. We want to help young people to be productive citizens in our community.”
“We need to connect to a number of professional service providers who could execute one of the needed modules during the training period,” Jeff said. “Financial literacy, health and wellness, GED attainment, computer skills, conflict resolution – we urge Jackson-area providers in these areas to contact Jordan and connect.”
Write to Jordan at email@example.com, and donate to Refill Café to help with building maintenance, taxes and insurance at www.cfgj.networkforgood.com.