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Coffee or tea? Please and thank you

Walnut Creek Elementary students Jonathan Miller, left, Sara Mae Yoder and Kyle Yoder are part of the elementary student team that has helped make HuggaMug Cafe a popular event among teachers every Friday morning. The coffee shop has not only helped teachers get a shot of caffeine in the morning, but also the proceeds have helped raise funds for area families in need.

Dave Mast

It’s Friday morning, the school week is winding down and teachers in East Holmes are looking for that extra jolt of energy to get them over the hump and into the weekend. Thanks to the dedicated services of members of the learning disability classrooms of Hiland High School and Walnut Creek and Berlin Elementary, that jolt of caffeine is available to boost their energy as they wind down the school week.
The LD classes at those schools have implemented a Friday morning coffee program that allows teachers to order a hot beverage in the morning. In addition to providing participating staff members with a beverage, the classes also use this opportunity as a way to raise funds for area families in need.
At Hiland High School, the J&H Coffee Shop, named for its two student members, Jason Mast and Hannah Miller, gets busy each Friday morning taking orders, making coffee and hot chocolate, and then making the rounds to deliver their highly anticipated drinks.
According to Ruby Shoup, a mental health aide at Hiland High School, the coffee shop is a tremendous win across the board.
“It’s a neat way to teach them life skills and to help them understand how to serve,” Shoup said. “It has helped them to get more comfortable in using their own voices in the school setting, and everyone here from the staff to the students have been amazingly accepting and gracious toward them.”
At Hiland High School the volunteers make three rounds of deliveries of coffee, tea and hot chocolate each Friday morning. Mast and Miller have developed a routine for their Friday morning trek around school. They take orders, collect money, provide stamps for the free coffee cards, and make and deliver the coffee.
The coffee shop utilizes Keurig coffee makers and their various coffee flavors. At $1 per cup, teachers have grown fond of the Friday pick-me-up.
“The thing I love the most is that every time they come in you can tell it brightens everyone’s day,” Hiland teacher Noah Boyd said. “It’s hard not to be filled with joy when they come in.”
Teacher Tammy Hicks said of the Friday morning ritual, “It’s another way to interact with those children. It’s a neat program, and the money is going to a great cause. It was a wonderful idea that we all look forward to each Friday morning.”
In addition to the joy these cups of java bring to the staff members, the funds raised all go toward helping a local family in need. Shoup said they find families who need a pick-me-up. They have donated $50 gift cards to area families, and recently someone even donated a matching $50 donation to the cause.
“That has been fun, to see the support we have gotten and the ability to provide for area families,” Shoup said.
At Walnut Creek Elementary, MH intervention specialist Emily Schmucker and assistant Donna Miller enjoy spending the morning with their LD students: Maria Mast, Jonathan Miller, Sara Mae Yoder, Kyle Yoder, Robert Miller, Andrew Miller and Elias Troyer.
Together they brew the coffee, take orders and deliver the piping-hot beverages throughout the school. They have dubbed their coffee shop HuggaMug Café, and Schmucker said they have enjoyed the opportunity to help the youth branch out and extend themselves beyond their comfort zones.
“It’s been a wonderful learning experience for them," Schmucker said of her students. “We have used a business-based education model. The students collect and count the money; deliver drinks to staff; write name labels for the cups; count and sort orders, creamers and supplies; and use the kitchen facility in our classroom and clean up.”
The students in Schmucker’s classroom range from third- to sixth-graders, and they have enjoyed the chance to interact with the teachers throughout the day, and they even have a loyal bus driver who takes advantage of the opportunity.
“This first started with one of our teachers at Berlin, and I saw a special education teacher was doing it, and I thought it was such a neat idea,” Schmucker said. “We started mid-year last year, and we have had the joy of blessing two families this year.”
The first blessing came for a family who had just lost their father, and the class presented the family with a gift card to Walnut Creek Cheese. The second came at Christmas when they gave a local family two laundry baskets filled with Christmas gifts.
“It just works on so many levels,” Schmucker said. “I love the social aspect of it. We encourage them to interact, and I love the idea of promoting independence and life skills. It’s neat to see them doing things that aren’t simply academic.”
Friday’s taken on a coffee shop feel in these schools, and more importantly it has been a heartwarming experience for everyone involved.

Published: March 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180309949