After The Grind a great place to unwind

Amber Lupkoski, a young Blackfalds mother of two, said she finds herself coming into After the Grind Coffee House every day.

Volunteer Janna Doerksen makes an ice cream cone for a customer at After The Grind coffeehouse in Blackfalds Tuesday.

Amber Lupkoski, a young Blackfalds mother of two, said she finds herself coming into After the Grind Coffee House every day.

“The food is great, coffee’s great and fair-trade. . . . The kids love it and feel comfortable here ­— there’s books and stuff for them — and the service is friendly, approachable,” said Lupkoski.

“My favourite is their tiger ice cream,” chirped her six-year-old son, Carson.

His four year-old sister, Caira, prefers the frothy floats.

It’s a familiar staple in her day, said Lupkoski, and has more of a relaxed, homey feel to it than chain coffee shops.

After the Grind, located downtown Blackfalds at 4911 Broadway Ave., isn’t just any ordinary coffee house either.

It’s a non-profit café, dependent entirely on the efforts of volunteers and focused on the larger picture of wide-reaching community development.

After the Grind is an offshoot project for the Blackfalds chapter of one of the largest Christian organizations in the world, Youth With a Mission (YWAM).

Its profits go towards enriching the lives of children and youth locally as well as internationally.

“The fact that After the Grind in 100 per cent volunteer based mystifies a lot of people,” said Chris Keim, co-director of the coffee house along with his wife Sharon.

Twelve staff volunteers from YWAM Blackfalds run the coffee shop along with a handful of local volunteers, including students from Iron Ridge Junior Campus.

International volunteers also come to Blackfalds to try their hand as baristas through YWAM for a period of three weeks.

So far, After the Grind has hosted volunteers from South Korea, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

Through the organization and the coffee house profits, the local group has assisted orphanages across the globe, raised school funds for Mexican students and contributed to Haitian relief funds among other endeavours, said Keim.

On a weekly basis, YWAM Blackfalds volunteers also serve in the local Food for Schools program, prepare meals at the Red Deer soup kitchen and offer free English classes to local immigrants.

The coffee house opened shop four years ago, after some major renovations to the quaint corner building that was once Cornerstone Christian Fellowship church, said Keim, 41, who grew up in Blackfalds.

To avoid their church’s demolition, the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship donated the 100 year-old building to YWAM Blackfalds in late 2007.

The building had been used as a general store, hardware store and grocery store throughout the years.

After spending years overseas, Keim jumped at the opportunity to return to his hometown, the place where he had “the freedom to ride my bike anywhere,” to raise his own family.

“We wanted to create a community gathering space in the town, a third space after home and work where people develop relationships, don’t feel rushed.

“The business isn’t about cranking people through. The business is about establishing a quiet, peaceful place for connections,” he said.

After the Grind serves up more than fair-trade mochas and caramel macchiatos; it serves soups in the winter, salads in the summer plus an assortment of panini sandwiches and deserts, such as the ever-popular homemade carrot cake.

The shop also offers a board game night for local youth every Friday to give them something to do in the small town and keep them out of trouble, said Keim.

Some evenings, they’ve had up to 40 young adults attend.

Keim said he’d like to see After the Grind expand as a venue, used more in the evening for poetry readings and other programs.

They are also in the process of renovating the back kitchen so they can do more baking right on site.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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