Homeless men brewing business venture

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TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) — (4/12/19) Three homeless men, with the help of a local non-profit group, recently started roasting fresh coffee beans from countries all over the world.  Now, they’re available to the public.

Larry Summers is preparing to roast coffee beans from Ethiopia. “We have Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Columbian, Costa Rican, Brazilian,” he said. Summers said he became homeless about three years ago. He’s been living in a tent for the past two years. Reflecting on his past business ventures, he said “I’d say I’ve been replaced by technology about three times now.”

What has always stayed with him is his love of coffee. Ethiopian is his favorite. “I like the bold taste of it. I think it’s the best tasting bean out there” he said.

Several bags of each type of coffee the men roast is kept on display at the front desk at Mission Texarkana.  The non-profit agency ministers to the residents of Texarkana by providing daily meals, food pantry items, vocational assistance, and the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

“People that have been used to drinking you know, grocery store coffee, are actually shocked at how much better the fresh roasted beans taste,” Summers said.

Summers, along with Odedric Morrison and Wallace Elliott, recently learned the process of roasting coffee beans from Mission Texarkana Director Cody Howard. Howard used to roast his own beans at home. “I had the thought, well, if I know how to do this, if I know how to roast coffee, I could just teach this to some of my homeless neighbors and teach them a skill,” he said.

Along with some independent study and some trial and error, these men honed their technique and now roast about thirty bags of coffee a week. Reflecting on his first days of roasting coffee beans, Elliott said he spent a lot of time reading online, which increased his interest. “It was a real learning experience, have to say I burned up a batch of coffee.” Elliott said Guatemalan coffee is his current favorite.

“It gives me something to look forward to every day and it really has changed my life,” said Odedric Morrison. He’s learning how to roast and currently bags and seals the finished coffee beans. Morrison is originally from Hope, Arkansas. “(I) give the Lord the praise and the glory and thank those who have donated to the homeless,” he said.

Elliott, the first of the trio that roasted the beans, is now moving on to other skills. “Basically in sales and keeping supplies in here,” he said. He takes notes as the number of beans in some of the bags begin to dwindle.  

Howard has high hopes for the growing business. He said proceeds from coffee sales will be used to help provide housing for the men. And if the business grows, others can be helped, too. “The more the community consumes, the more people we can put in housing,” he said.

If you’d like to purchase some coffee, all flavors are available at Mission Texarkana in downtown Texarkana during normal operations hours.  The cost is $12 per bag. Reduced pricing is available for organizations that buy in bulk.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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