JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Inside what used to be a school bus, hope is brewing.
“We found an old school bus on the side of the road in Mayport. We had the idea of, with our sponsorship program, our kids were just not able to get jobs over in some of our communities, so we bought the old school bus made some conversations,” Ron Armstrong said. “We had the idea of turning into a coffee shop to employ our kids.”
“We always say it's one cup, one child. When you buy a cup of coffee through this operation, it goes right back into the community,” Armstrong said.
The mobile coffee shop launched in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. It’s not only serving coffee but also opportunity to kids on the First Coast.
“It actually is changing a few lives. It changed mine. I’d be on the wrong path doing some very bad things if I wasn't here today,” Te’jon Collins said.
Collins is a student at Raines High and works at Grounds of Grace. It’s his first job and he says he is learning important life skills.
“Without Mr. Ron and them and the bus, I would say most of the kids out there in the community would actually be trying to influence gang violence and trying to become a gang member and do gang violence things,” Collins said. “With the bus and Sponsored by Grace it’s actually changed. Kids don't have to think about firearms or harming other people's kids. They actually think about staying together keeping each other safe.”
And Grounds of Grace is expanding. It's slated to open its first brick and mortar coffee shop in May at 1601 University Boulevard North in Jacksonville.
“We actually are the first coffee shop of the revitalization of Arlington going in,” Armstrong said. “We have three units. The biggest space is going to be our Grounds of Grace brick and mortar. The middle space is going to be Sponsored by Grace, which is our nonprofit hub office. And then on the end, we have a great partner that we're partnering with, a bakery that's coming in and going to do the same thing with kids in our community and our Teen Center, where they'll teach them life skills. And they're going to learn the bakery trade, rather than the coffee trade.”
The mission he says is to invest in youth through each cup of coffee sold, to help change the trajectory of their life.
“The biggest thing that we see ourselves doing is we're planting a church. We want to be a community hub for people coming in not just to get a cup of coffee, but to get loved on to get something different in this community,” Armstrong said. “We're in a poverty area, high crime rate, and kids don't have opportunities.”
For Collins his cup is full of hope.
“It's taking you down the right path instead of the wrong,” Collins said. “I'm actually earning, earning money, learning how to save up and do a bunch of things that I really want to do.”
You can help support Grounds of Grace by requesting its bus at your next event by clicking here.