The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 64 University Terrace, seeks to serve Christ by promoting love throughout the Ohio University campus and the Athens area. However, it’s recently found a new way to spread love: CrossRoads Café.
CrossRoads Café is a nondenominational coffee shop in the basement of the church, which is located near the top of Morton Hill. For the past four months, the cafe has operated to engage people locally and to better get involved in the Athens area. The cafe offers freshly brewed coffee and conversation.
Rev. Deborah Woolsey was the brain behind the operation of the cafe and was inspired to develop a deeper relationship with the people around her.
If You Go:
What: CrossRoads Café
When: 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Mon., Tues., Thurs. and Fri.; 1-3 p.m., Sun.
Where: Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 64 University Terrace
“It’s not fair for the church to promote being involved in the community if we aren’t also doing our best,” Woolsey said. “This is our way of getting more involved in a relatable way in the community.”
The Episcopal bishop created an initiative to challenge churches to be more involved in their specific areas. Woolsey was approached by the bishop because of the church’s location and was asked if she would be interested in creating the cafe as a model for other churches.
Woolsey explored the Athens area for a full year, did some work with students and other businesses — including the Center for Entrepreneurship at OU — and made a plan to create CrossRoads Café.
“We don’t want to be a Starbucks or a big corporate place,” Woolsey said. “We just want to find a way to deepen our connection with the community and promote love to everyone who comes into the cafe.”
The cafe was built using resources the church already had, specifically the space and location, and Woolsey was given some funds to buy equipment and get the cafe off the ground. From the funds, the church partnered with Deeper Roots Coffee, an Ohio-based coffee cafe and roaster. Woolsey feels the partnership is a way to contribute to the economy not only locally but statewide, as Deeper Roots Coffee is based in Cincinnati.
“It matters what we’re selling,” Woolsey said. “Where it comes from is how we’re participating in the economy that’s not just local, but national.”
Woolsey was heavily inspired by Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen, which uses the “pay-it-forward” model. CrossRoads Café is a cash-only coffee, which can be difficult for people who are used to only carrying around a card. If someone comes in to the cafe and doesn’t have cash, the staff can dip into the pay-it-forward fund to pay for the coffee.
Additionally, Woolsey has created ways for people to contribute other than financially. If someone comes into the cafe for coffee and can’t afford to pay, they can do dishes, clean up around the cafe or perform a number of other small jobs to act as their payment.
“You can take your coffee and go, and if you don’t come again, then that’s just the way it is,” Woolsey said. “But we’ve seen people discover how delicious our coffee is and come back for more. And most of the time, people also contribute to the pay-it-forward fund, which makes us happy.”
The cafe’s staff is comprised of both hired workers and volunteers. The hired staff doesn’t stem from the church, but the volunteers are churchgoers. Some of the staff are trained listeners and take turns sitting at the “listening table,” where people can sit with their coffee, and if they’re having a bad day or need someone to talk to, the staff member at the listening table will open their ears.
“We want people to know that we’re more than just coffee. We’re a warm, friendly place full of people who want to be here for you,” Woolsey said. “If you’re feeling lonely and just need an outsider who won’t judge you to listen, that’s something we can offer.
Eleanor Halbauer, the cafe’s manager, got involved with the cafe through some friends and was excited to make people feel welcome in a nice space with great coffee. She often brings her daughter to work, which is one reason she loves the job, and her daughter loves interacting with the customers.
“It’s so nice to be able to bring my daughter with me,” Halbauer said. “It’s a great opportunity to spend time with her and share the experience of meeting new people and interacting with the customers, which I love.”
Michael Luelloff, Woolsey’s husband and a cafe volunteer, has been helping out with CrossRoads Café since day one. He helped his wife develop the cafe by designing the layout, building some of the furniture, making coffee and offering support for the staff.
“It’s a great mission that I’ve been involved with since the beginning,” Luelloff said. “From helping out here and there, to volunteering, to supporting my wife. I like the interaction with the customers, and I definitely drink more coffee now.”
Woolsey used to manage an independent book store in a small town until she felt the call from God to become a priest. She feels God called her to Athens to improve upon the church and create CrossRoads Café as a way to connect with people and give them an introduction to what the church is and what it’s doing to help the area.
“This cafe is giving me the opportunity to practice what I feel I’ve been called into,” Woolsey said. “It’s important to me that I help people see the importance and relevance of being connected to something larger than themselves, and that something is love.”