|Earl Weissert, center, helps Larry and Carole Prendergast set up a table to sell Haitian coffee after Mass at Christ the King Church in Nashville. Proceeds from the coffee sales are divided three ways, between the Haitian farmers, a Milwaukee-based company that roasts and packages the coffee, and Christ the King, to support its twinned parish in Pilette, Haiti. Photo by Rick Musacchio|
There’s something brewing at Christ the King Church, and it’s having an international impact.
On Sunday mornings, parishioners Earl and Martha Weissert run a Coffee and Donuts ministry in the school, serving coffee grown by and imported from Haitian farmers. They sell bags of it on those mornings too, and out of the church office during the week.
It’s an arrangement that grew out of a conversation in Christ the King’s adult education class, taught by Joceline Lemaire. “When the Pope wrote his encyclical, ‘Laudato Si,’’ he asked us as Christians to do everything we could to help with global issues, poverty and social injustice,” said Earl Weissert. “Our adult education group that was studying it said, ‘What can we do to help?’ What we came up with was Singing Rooster coffee.”
Singing Rooster is a Milwaukee-based company that buys beans grown by Haitian farmers at fair trade prices. They process the coffee, package it, and then sell it at wholesale prices. When the bags of coffee arrive at Christ the King from The Singing Rooster, the Weisserts add a large sticker label to each bag, which has a photo of Father Dexter Brewer, Christ the King’s pastor, surrounded by a group of kids from Haiti.
|The bags of coffee, right, include a sticker with a picture taken on a Christ the King visit to Haiti.|
One third of the proceeds go to the farmers, one third to Singing Rooster, and one third to the wholesale entity, in this case Christ the King, which sells the coffee and uses the profits to support other initiatives in Haiti.
The coffee that’s given away at Coffee and Donuts turns out to be a perfect way to promote the Haitian cause. It’s a hot cup of java served with a dose of social consciousness. “It made sense that if they liked this coffee that they would know where it came from,” said Martha Weissert. “It opens up the dialogue.”
During the summer, the Weisserts sell the coffee at the Christ the King Farmer’s Market. It’s available in Vienna (a regular roast) French roast, decaf, plus a premium label called Tete. “People like what the coffee is for, and we get repeat customers because the coffee’s great,” said Earl.
Christ the King uses what it makes from the sales to support its sister parish in Pilette, Haiti, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. The primary focus has been building a school, a project that’s been under way for several years with the help of the Christ the King Haiti committee and donations from parishioners.
“Right now, we’re trying to raise $27,000 to put a roof on the school,” explained Earl. “They have no roof now; they’ve been using tarps that don’t keep out the rain.”
The money raised is sent from Christ the King to its sister parish in Haiti to help with the needs and projects there. Members of the Christ the King’s Haiti committee have traveled to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows to work with local engineers, to get bids and to help supervise the construction of the school. Father Brewer accompanied them in the spring to visit the youth who attend the school.
There are additional benefits to the coffee sales. One is environmental: every time a bag of coffee is sold, a productive tree is planted in Haiti, which contributes to the reforestation of the country. In the social justice arena, coffee sales create and maintain jobs for the Haitian farmers, which ultimately injects more income into the Haitian economy.
“The coffee effort has everything,” said Earl. “It hits all the bells that we thought the pope was asking us to do.”
There are future plans for this endeavor. Responding to a significant need voiced by Father Dorcin, the Weisserts and the Haiti committee are hoping to raise funds for teacher salaries. “It’s hard to get good teachers because the salaries are so low, and far below what the private sector can provide,” said Earl.
The Weisserts are also trying to spread the good word. The goal is to work with some of the other churches in the Diocese of Nashville that might be able to use this type of coffee for their fundraising efforts. Many of them have their own relationships with sister parishes in Haiti.
The Knights of Columbus at Christ the King have offered to assist the Weisserts in linking up with Knights councils at other parishes, to kickstart this initiative. “They would use the funds for whatever the needs are at their church,” said Earl. “Whether that’s supporting Haiti or not, it’s a great way to help the Haitian farmers. The more coffee we order, the more the farmers have in terms of income.”
This appears to be a win-win for all the stakeholders, including the customers who purchase and consume the product. “I think this has a unique niche of making a connection directly between our people and the people in Haiti,” said Martha. “When we drink their coffee, it makes us part of them. It’s not just throwing money in an envelope – as much as we need that, and the bulk of the funds do come from that.
“This makes an emotional connection,” continued Martha. “Now they’re talking about Haiti, and saying, ‘What else can we do?’ I think that’s really important for the spiritual aspect of this ministry.”