TOWANDA, Kan. – What do you get when a church opens a coffee house?
But it’s more than a cute name.
“Me and God, we’ve had our problems before,” said employee, DJ McGinn. “I’ve always believed in him. I just kind of stepped away from him for awhile, but now I’m trying to get him back in my life.”
The new restaurant in Butler County is helping recovering addicts and parolees, like DJ, start a new life.
“I started doing drugs like 13, 14 years old,” said McGinn, originally from Wellington.
“I got hooked on drugs when I was about 15,” said Evan Kingcade, who moved to Towanda from Oklahoma.
The two men are learning the culinary arts– prepping, cooking and baking– plus, the most important job skill, being dependable.
“Some of them have trouble with that, when they first come,” said Tamara Worcester, lead cook at HeBrews. “Even three hours of work is too much for ’em, and so once they get that work ethic, they can go work anywhere.”
The “Transformed” rehab program is part of the H2O church, which spent years renovating the vacant building.
HeBrews opened in February and holds worship services and bible study.
The men in recovery earn a paycheck for their work and live in an upstairs apartment– for free.
“At first, it was very odd, very weird,” said McGinn. “I’m like, ‘What’s the catch?’ There is no catch.”
“The goal is to get them back out into society and hopefully living the life they really want to live,” said Doug Lauxman, campus pastor.
But even in a safe environment like HeBrews, staying clean can be tough.
“We had one or two come in,” said Lauxman. “They didn’t make it more than a week or so.”
Kingcade was their first student and is now earning his G.E.D.
McGinn started a couple months ago, and already, the giant cinnamon rolls he makes are often a sell-out.
“I made 20 last night, and when I got in this morning, they said, ‘Where are all the cinnamon rolls?’” said McGinn. “One guy bought 19 of them!”
People who live in Towanda are happy to see another business on Main Street. HeBrews is the town’s third restaurant.
Someday, the church hopes to expand the rehab program to house women, too.
“It only takes one life to change the world,” said Lauxman. “You never know where they’re going to go or where they’ll end up. As long as there’s one, we’ll keep working.”