OUR FOUNDER: NANCY SAWYER-MOLINA

Since 2001, The Coffee Connection (formerly the Women’s Coffee Connection) has been one of Rochester's premiere coffee roasters, providing savory coffee and unique merchandise to the Rochester community, while supporting social and environmental causes at home and abroad. Founder Nancy Sawyer-Molina began this project in the hopes of helping SouthAvenue-600struggling women in the Rochester area receive valuable employment training and improved interpersonal skills. By providing a valuable mix of counseling and pre-employment training, The Coffee Connection has helped many area women create new lives for themselves. And they are not the only ones who are benefitting from the services. The Coffee Connection also reaches out to farmers in Peru who have given up their coca crops (the raw ingredient of cocaine) to grow coffee beans.

Nancy Sawyer-Molina lives in Peru and is now working with DAVIDA (a Peruvian national agency) and the regional government of Cuzco to develop a drug and alcohol prevention plan for at-risk kids (ages 10-18) in the Cuzco area. They also volunteer at a mental health hospital which provides inpatient treatment for people with addiction. Her nonprofit organization, Sumac Wasi (“big house”)  works in partnership with another group, Qosco Macki, to provide shelter and food for street kids. They have created a nonprofit business collecting plastic bottles and selling them, getting donations from hotels and local business and agencies. The street kids work on the recycling business to earn their own income by bringing plastic bottles to them. They are looking for funds to purchase machinery to process the bottles for recycling. They can make more money when they are cut and washed. With 2.5 million tourists in Cuzco each year, they have a potential of 5 million bottles per year to recycle.

COFFEE CONNECTION AND PROJECT EMPOWER

In November 2011, the nonprofit organization Life Listening Resources merged a 5-year program of working with women in recovery – Project Empower – with the Coffee Connection. We provide long-term, comprehensive, continuous support for women on their journey toward sustainable recovery from addiction. Through the Coffee Connection, we continue to provide employment training, and we are now creating new jobs for some of the women in the program. Our intern-to-employee model seeks to build the business and organization by hiring women in the program to fully staff the organization.

When we assumed management in 2011, Nancy was the only employee with four to six women in an employment training program at the original store on South Avenue. Under the direction of our executive director, Joy Bergfalk, we have been fully engaged in social entrepreneurship in the Rochester area.  In Joy-smJune 2012 we opened a second store, The Greenhouse Café on East Main Street, and created three new jobs for women in the program during 2012. With generous grants from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation and the Greater Good Project of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester in late 2013, we are creating a total of 12 full-time jobs with sustainable wages and benefits for women within the program. Our vision is to fully staff the business and organization from within our program—a unique goal for a nonprofit agency working with people in recovery. In May 2014 we expect to open our third store, The Cannonball Café in Charlotte.