Coffee for a cause: The Well serves to ‘love people’

Coffee is a new driving force for small miracles in Nashville.

The Well, a new non-profit coffeehouse located in Green Hills, donates all revenue, minus expenses, to organizations that provide clean water around the world.

“We make money for the purpose of giving it away,” co-founder Rob Touchstone said. “Six thousand people die everyday from waterborne illness. We can’t solve the water crisis in the world, but we want to play our part.”

While The Well is still in its beginning stages and must pay off startup costs before it can generate revenue to build wells, but the coffeehouse has already made a global impact. The Well hopes to gain revenue for the creation of wells as early as December.

Profits from The Well coffeehouse will be donated to Blood:Water Mission and The Living Water Project, two local non-profits that fund clean water for impoverished areas of the world. With the help of these organizations, The Well can fund the creation of wells in the countries and regions of their choosing.

“For $1000 you can help thousands of people. We have a specific list of where we can build and places in the world that need water,” Touchstone said. These places include Africa, Haiti, and Honduras.

But The Well is not just globally focused; this charitable organization has created a hub for addressing local needs too. The wishing well, a wall found within the shop, allows for members of the community to post their needs for others to see. Patrons can then read and respond to the needs posted.

“The wishing well is our effort to reach out to our community, to allow them to do what we’re doing. It’s a way for the community to take care of each other,” said Touchstone.

Workers say the wall has already created some inspiring stories.

“A lady teaching music classes for the inner city posted on the wall that she needed instruments, so that she could teach low-poverty areas in the city,” said Chris Soper, co-founder and chairman of The Well. “Somebody donated two guitars and some other musical instruments. There were laying around, and now they are being used to help somebody.”

But the good deeds don’t stop there. One patron of the coffee shop was so moved by the opportunity to give back that he was willing to give away his own truck.

“A girl had just moved here from the Midwest and was needing a vehicle. So she posted on the wishing well that she needed a means of transportation,” Touchstone said. “A couple weeks later, a guy came in and saw it, was looking for a way to serve, and gave her his truck.”

The initial vision for the non-profit coffeehouse was born about five years ago in a paper Touchstone wrote as a student at Lipscomb University. His paper sought to explain what it would take for churches to get out of brick walls and stained glass.

“This whole effort was to embody the presence of Jesus outside of a church,” Touchstone said. “A coffeehouse seemed like the answer to that; this is us being Jesus to anyone that walks through the door.”

To fulfill their vision, Touchstone and Soper teamed up with four other friends to create the coffee shop that exists today.

The Well brings “church” to its patrons in almost every corner of the coffeehouse. Retail space there displays items for sale from other local and global non-profit organizations. A table in the front of the shop displays products that support those who created them on the streets of India, Honduras, Haiti and Ethiopia. Also displayed are home products from Thistle Farms, a Nashville group that helps women as they recover from lives of prostitution, trafficking and addiction.

As one might expect, even the coffee sold at The Well is socially-minded. Distributed by Just Love Coffee Roasters in Murfreesboro, the coffee is either fair-trade or direct-trade, ensuring that the bean farmers are not taken advantage of. The beans are also organic, ensuring that shop’s coffee farmers don’t face the risks dangerous chemicals bring in traditional coffee farming.

“We just love people,” Touchstone said. “Our motto is ‘love coffee’, but our motive is just to love people.”

Customers support The Well’s service and charity, and like-minded people can do the same over coffee. The Well is located at 2035 Richard Jones Road and is open seven days a week.

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