What happens in Shine Cafe is bigger than a cup of coffee.

It’s the place in the Atrium at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus where you’ll meet unforgettable volunteer baristas like Grant, Mason, Trent and Andrew. They are adults with special needs who are trained and ready to serve.

Donning their Shine hat and apron is a proud moment.

“It’s good,” said Shine Cafe Andrew Weiner. “It gives me a chance to talk to people and my friends from Shine.”

Shine Ministry Leader Mary Tatum said Shine baristas are building a “sweet community” as they serve and spend time together.

“They encourage one another, pray for each other and look forward to being together. They are in a place God can use them,” Tatum said.

For several years before Cafe 920 closed due to COVID-19 shutdowns, Shine Ministry adults helped stock and clean the café. As the Café sat empty because of the pandemic, Shine Ministry staff saw how isolation was impacting adults with special needs. Many were displaced from their jobs due to COVID closings. Others who tried to find jobs were turned down for lack of experience.

Tatum asked to use the café as a training and serving opportunity for adults with special needs.

Currently, 16 baristas with special needs from Shine participate in weekly training as well as discipleship and other serving opportunities. An additional 10 adults from Shine help during Thursday and Sunday services. A team of volunteers serve alongside baristas, who are trained in every area from mopping floors to making and serving drinks.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

“Our Shine volunteers are connecting with one another and learning job skills,” said Shine Ministry Associate Shelley Roach. “What we do here is not about the coffee, though that’s good. It’s about taking time to meet people. For many of our adults, this is a first step toward getting a job and a paycheck. Shine volunteers love going to ‘work’ and meeting new friends.”

Shine Cafe launched during the Global Missions Health Conference with thousands visiting Southeast from around the world. Baristas efficiently handled crowds.

“Many are curious about what we’re doing at Shine Cafe,” Tatum said. “They ask questions about how to help their church and families be better equipped to love and serve alongside people with disabilities.”

The Shine Cafe is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.