A Hilliard business owner would like to help people in El Salvador by purchasing coffee beans, but first he has a more important mission.
Nate Grenier, owner of Coffee Connections of Hilliard at 4004 Main St., is encouraging his customers and the Hilliard community to support a faith-based and humanitarian mission trip to El Salvador, a small nation in Central America, in February.
Grenier, 33, and his partner on the mission, Jason Cox, 46, of Hilliard, will raise awareness and proceeds for the Center for the Development of Infants and Families, the El Salvador-based organization with which local nonprofit organization Emerson's House of Refuge partners to organize the missions, during an "Around the Bonfire" event from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, at Coffee Connections.
They will sell handmade items, such as painted ceramic coffee mugs crafted by children in El Salvador, and those who attend will be invited to participate in the next mission in February.
"We will share our stories about past missions (and) dates for our missions in 2019," Cox said.
Emerson's House of Refuge, which is based in north Columbus, evolved from a previous church-based mission program to El Salvador, he said.
However, Cox said, because the organization isn't "directly affiliated with church," people of any faith can participate in its missions.
The missions are both faith-based and humanitarian, he said.
"We are a faith-based mission and have worship services during our missions," Cox said. The worship services are open to open to anyone who wants to attend, he said.
Grenier is new to the mission trips, making his first trip with Cox to El Salvador in June.
He said he met Cox through his business partners.
Cox has been a customer at Lil' Donut Factory, 4543 Scioto Darby Road, which also is home to the Coffee Mess. Those two businesses and Coffee Connections have joined to form Public Perk, for which Cox works, to operate Kerr's Cafe at the new Hilliard branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.
Earlier this year, Cox arranged for the founder of the Center for the Development of Infants and Families to visit Coffee Connections, where he raised enough money to expand the street mission for the June trip.
"We talked about the mission and I decided to go (in June)," Grenier said. "It was an eye-opening experience."
Two staff members from Coffee Connections, Priscilla Coffey and Kyler Schultz, along with Cox, were part of the 22-person contingent on the June mission.
Grenier came back with a plan: He said he is exploring a way to help growers in El Salvador by directly purchasing coffee beans to supply his store, though he hasn't determined a way to do that.
"(Meanwhile), I want to keep helping with our missions," he said.
His wife, Sharon, and three of their four daughters, Aunnica, 8, Aliza, 6, and Ari, 4, accompanied him on the June mission trip.
For Aunnica, a student at Avery Elementary School, the highlight of the trip was making new friends.
"I want to go back and make more friends (but) I also want to help," said Aunnica, who described the doors on the houses she visited as "gates."
"I felt bad they don't have the stuff we do. ... They have to go get water," she said.
Aunnica's iPod was a hit -- and an anomaly -- with children her age.
"Many of the parents have cellphones but not the kids," Grenier said.
Aunnica said she also enjoyed the rooftop of the mission house where she watched sunsets and saw volcanoes.
Missionaries from Emerson's House of Refuge make two trips a year to El Salvador and stay in a mission house the organization owns.
The missions are to Soyapango, a city of about 300,000 people, where filters are required for potable water and most residences are built from corrugated metal and lack any kind of climate control, Cox said.
The missions have become personal to Cox, who on a recent trip met the two girls he had sponsored since birth, Cesia and Sarai, who are 9 and 11 years old.
"They are in school and (learning to speak English)," Cox said.
Emerson's House of Refuge missions have several major components that include a "street mission," in which several hundred people are fed a meal each Monday and Friday, and an outreach into the city's schools, where English is taught to students.
"We offer workshops to teach a trade or a skill such as carpentry, sewing or baking to help people become employable and have jobs," Cox said.