Warming hearts

LOCK HAVEN – There’s no denying that giving to people makes you feel good. A natural high comes with the opportunity to help someone who is down on their luck, or to help someone in a way you might not even get to see.

Jared Conti, manager at Avenue 209 Coffee House, 209 Bellefonte Ave., saw the opportunity to take part in a pay-it-forward movement that has been popping up in coffee shops across the nation after it had gone viral, and from customer, Jamon Andrus, who tipped Conti off to the idea.

Avenue 209 is one of many coffeehouses to participate in Suspended Coffees, something that was started more than 100 years ago in Naples, Italy, according to www.suspendedcoffees.com.

“When you buy a coffee, you pay for a second one. The barista gives you your coffee, then logs the second coffee as ‘suspended’ (meaning the transaction has been paused, or not yet completed – the money has been received, but the coffee has not yet been delivered). When someone who can’t afford a coffee comes in, they can ask whether there are any ‘suspended’ coffees. The barista checks the log and, if there are any pre-paid coffees, the person is given a free coffee. The transaction is then considered complete,” according the to website.

The idea of suspended coffees, although started 100 years ago, declined after World War II. With the popularity of social media, Suspended Coffees experienced a resurgence and quickly grew.

John Sweeney, who set up the Facebook page for Suspended Coffees, heard about the movement in March 2013.

“As of today, we have over 240,000 followers and we just launched the new website last week with a list of supporting cafes and ways to help. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the response I got, in my first weekend [of having the Facebook page] we had over 20,000 followers,”Sweeney said, adding, “It’s a really intimate thing to do. It just gives you a really good feeling without worrying about where the money will go. It has the power to lift a person’s spirit, which is awesome.”

Avenue 209 is no stranger to the pay-it-forward thinking – the coffee house always has been involved in giving back to the community. And while Suspended Coffees is a new venture for the establishment, Conti sees it being something that customers can really get into.

“We haven’t had any advertisement for it, other than the Facebook page, but the customers are really excited,” Conti said. “Someone came in the other day and was like, ‘Hi!,’ bought two cups of coffee, and said, ‘Throw two cups on the list.’ It’s people giving; it’s a great idea. It can be anonymous.”

Conti said that they’ve had something similar take place in their coffee shop before. Many customers have donated money in order for someone less fortunate to have a cup on them.

“It’s great to see this. I perk right up. It’s a neat feeling to see it happen right there in that moment,” he said. “It’s just nice to see people come together, and a nice way to be involved in the community on such an easy level. We don’t have to do any work. I know it’s hard sometimes because you think about giving and you think about volunteering for stuff, and sometimes it’s difficult to get involved with a group. This is like, ‘Throw another cup on my bill’ and you’re done.”

With so many coffee shops across the United States involved, many heart-warming stories have been popping up, and Sweeney sees an influx of them sent to the Facebook page.

“One of the best stories I’ve heard is about a well-to-do man who had discovered his wife was leaving him and left home in a haze without his wallet. He received a suspended coffee and returned close to 100 dollars towards suspended coffees,” Sweeney said.

As for the popularity of Suspended Coffees, Sweeney has big plans for 2014.

“I mainly want to raise awareness and try to get someone like Ellen or Oprah or Jon Bon Jovi to support use,” he said. “And who knows, maybe a couple of thousand more cafes on board.”

For more information on Suspended Coffees and to see the other cafes involved, visit www.facebook.com/suspendedcoffeess or www.suspendedcoffees.com.