Last month, Crete-Monee School District and the Crete Public Library celebrated the ten year anniversary of its collaboration on the Coffee Connection program. This partnership has provided a much needed opportunity for high school students with special needs to be part of the community workforce and to gain valuable work experience. District 201-U students, staff, Board of Education, library staff and trustees as well as faithful Coffee Connection patrons gathered at the library in celebration of the anniversary. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years since the Coffee Connection began. I look around this room and see so much excitement and so many smiles,” said Mardie Tuttle, President of the Crete Public Library Board of Trustees. “When I think back to the program’s charter members and their success stories, I think of how this program helped to develop their skills, level of confidence, and independence. It gives me goose bumps.”
For over ten years, a staff, made up of CMHS students, hosts the Coffee Connection each week at the Crete Public Library. These dedicated students serve the community a variety of beverages including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juice, and water. The Coffee Connection staff also has the responsibility of cleaning the facility and balancing the cash register. More than 40 students have passed through the program since it started.
The Coffee Connection started as a grant project submitted by Administrative Librarian Jane Schulten in 2001. The project was nurtured by the CM201U Business Education Partnership and its then Director, Mardie Tuttle, who brought in the expertise of a local coffee shop Madd Capps! to help with set up and training. “At the time, libraries were being challenged by bookstores and coffee houses. This program was developed with the commitment to keep service and community partnerships alive,” said Ms. Schulten. This unique project was made possible through a $10,000 "Lighting the Fire" programmatic grant from the Suburban Library System and has been sustained over the years. The grant was developed to encourage libraries to find ways to provide innovative library services while developing partnerships in the community. The Coffee Connection has allowed the Crete Public Library to enhance its traditional programming and services while providing a one of a kind opportunity for special needs students. Ms. Schulten recognized the commitment of district and library staff as well as community businesses for keeping this program alive all these years.
The Coffee Connection has been serving fresh brewed coffee to the community since its opening in 2002. If you’re looking for a hot cup of coffee, stop by the Coffee Connection and the staff will be sure to take good care of you! The Coffee Connection is open Monday-Thursday, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., at the Crete Public Library (1177 N. Main Street).