RITTMAN — A new coffee house hopes to break down barriers and connect the entire community under one roof.
Ten churches in and around Rittman have collaborated to open the Server, a café that serves hot beverages and small bites to eat, has high-speed Wi-Fi and provides an opportunity for the community to connect with all its neighbors. All services are free and donations are accepted.
“At the core of this was a desire for a place, a safe place for people to be,” said the Rev. Thomas Dunn of Crown Hill Mennonite Church.
The original thought for the space started a year ago when Crown Hill Mennonite Church considered relocating its food pantry into the city limits. Dunn reached out to the Rev. Alex Barnes of Milton Presbyterian Church, and they started looking into places to lease.
“I am really excited about this venture so that barriers of all kinds can be broken down, both among the churches of Rittman and between those who may have been blessed with lots of disposable income and those who may be struggling,” Barnes said.
Two issues arose when they were seeking a space for the food pantry: the cost of rent and what to do with the space when it wasn’t in use. More and more, they started talking about providing a free space in town where the community could meet. Eventually, the community space became a more attractive idea and Crown Hill kept the food pantry at the church.
The major turning point in the process came when Dunn met with Tim Van Arsdale, the owner of Cups Café in Medina. Van Arsdale runs the café as a ministry that’s open five days a week, also serving hot beverages and food for free.
“We talked to Tim and thought, ‘This is what Rittman needs,’” Dunn said. “Let’s forget about the whole food pantry moving, let’s focus on opening this coffee shop, community space, where everything is free.”
Once the churches secured enough financial support to stay open at least six months, found volunteers to work two days a week and established a core of people to serve in a leadership capacity, they signed a lease in October for the space at 51 N. Main St.
“It’s amazing how many different people have contributed. Just renovating this space, people from so many different churches, cleaning, tearing up walls, working on the design, donations. Pretty much all of the things you see in here are donated,” Dunn said.
All of the coffee at the Server is donated. The café also received a donated coffee maker and coffee grinder, and Panera Bread of Wadsworth donates its day-old bread.
Dunn is most excited about the number of volunteers who signed up to work or contribute to the project from all the churches involved. The support will allow the café to open a third day a week beginning in February. The cafe is averaging 10 to 15 people per day in its first three weeks.
“We’ve already had 30 volunteers that have signed up and trained to take shifts,” Dunn said. “That’s God working. Bringing different churches together — no one church owns this, no one person runs the show. The churches are working together, which is exciting.”
One volunteer, Donna Crowin, who attends St. Anne’s Church in Rittman, hopes the space will bring a multi-generational crowd together and help everyone realize “we’re more alike than we know.” She also enjoys the idea of giving people another place to socialize or simply to get out of the house.
“It’s a safe, comfortable, warm place for them to go. It gives people a chance to have a little bit of a social life they might not have at home,” Crowin said. “It’s a place where the kids can come after school and grab a quick bite to eat and hang out with old folks, too. It’s nice to have a place where multi-generations can come together.”
The Server is open from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and from 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Beginning February, the cafe will open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday.