Coffee Trail brews up support for students in Haiti, Dominican Republic

FINDLAY — A coffee-based fundraiser is a tasty wake-up opportunity to support Mission Possible schools in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“We’ve done other fundraisers, but this is the first time for a coffee trail. I’m excited about this event because it not only supports education, but also shares with the community some of the amazing local businesses in the area,” Mission Possible Educational Coordinator Tracy Rath said. “Everything we raise from the trail goes directly to our schools in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”

The mission of Mission Possible is to “equip the next generation.”

“We’re about equipping and training, which we do in a number of different ways. We have schools and churches in Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” Rath said. “We call ourselves ‘A hands up organization,’ which means we’re not going to just give you things. …We are a training and equipping organization.”

Mission Possible has provided relief — especially with natural disasters — but that’s not their focus. They stick to education and part of that is providing a full meal to the children each day, as well as some breakfast.

“It’s hard to learn when you are hungry,” Rath said.

All of their staff in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are Haitian and Dominican. They don’t have Americans living in the field, but they do travel to and work with the staff regularly. A benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic is that they have been able to set up and utilize many pieces of technology for remote teaching of both students and staff.

“We all do what we do because education is the key to change,” Rath said.”Education is what provides hope. None of us, individually, are going to make change happen, but education and training future generations is what is going to make a difference.”

That group effort is where the fundraising concept of the Coffee Trail cards hit on the key concept, which also helps to spread the word from many mouths, each talking in coffee shops.

Rath came up with the concept of the Coffee Trail fundraiser after going out for coffee with her son, who was taking part in a similar fundraiser for another non-profit in the Youngstown area.

After talking to some of the coffee shop owners in the Findlay area, it seemed like it could be a winner.

“We have people involved in the organization throughout the U.S. Here in Ohio, definitely Northwest Ohio, is a heavy part of our volunteer and donor base,” Rath said.

One of her personal enjoyments of the process has been visiting all the coffee shops and talking with the owners and hearing about their reason for being in business and what they hope to accomplish.

“I looked to see how many coffee shops are there in about a 50-mile radius of our office. There are a lot. So I just started visiting coffee shops and kept getting ‘yeses,’ from the owners,” Rath said. “So, I thought this is going to work. I love coffee. I actually love coffee shops. I think coffee shops have great stories and they have great personalities. I think coffee shop owners tend to have a great story for starting what they started.”

Those stories have nothing to do with the money Rath hopes to raise for the children of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but it’s an added benefit. She hopes the Trail card holders will also hearing the stories and enjoying each unique shop.

For decades, Haiti has been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Nine of the Mission Possible schools are in Haiti and one is close to the border in the Dominican Republic. The two countries share Hispaniola, one of the larger islands in the Caribbean.

Mission Possible is selling 300 Coffee Trail cards for $20 each, which would raise $6,000. Rath said that many people will donate additional funds when they make their card purchase. Over the course of eight weeks, from March 15-May 10, card holders stop in at participating coffee shops for a free coffee drink.

The Trail cards went on sale Feb. 10 and in the first week more than 100 were sold. Rath hopes to be able to sell all 300 before the start on March 15.

The 19 participating coffee shops are spread from Perrysburg and Grand Rapids, down through Bowling Green, into Findlay and as far south as Lima. A complete list can be found on the Mission Possible website.

Rath also points out that there will also be prize drawings throughout the eight-week trail time, culminating in a grand prize drawing. As those come closer they will be discussed at the coffee shops and online.

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