By Judy Babb
Baristas Angela Waltersheid, Hannah Dorsey and Natasha Weir scurry behind the counter and around the comfortable tables at Well Grounded Coffee Community on Garland Road. They beam bright smiles at customers, calling regulars by name. They are efficient at filling orders of both regulars and newcomers who wander in to enjoy the ambience, the coffee, cold brew or fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade — a new favorite created by Dorsey for the Advisory Board Fundraiser, Aug. 19.
The women recommend tasty treats from four area bakeries who are partners with Well Grounded. The shop plans to reduce overhead by opening a ventless kitchen soon, so they can bake and increase profits.
But this isn’t just another coffee shop. It’s one with a mission and a following.
Unless people know the story of Well Grounded, no one would guess the baristas were recently discharged from prison on drug-related offenses. Nor would they know these women have been reunited with their children and are now on the road to a well-grounded life. The three were celebrated at the fundraiser and spoke to the approximately 55 people who attended.
Well Grounded Coffee Community is the brainchild of Natalie and Michael Huscheck. It opened in December 2020. They opened the coffee shop after they partnered with Exodus Ministries, which provided the missing link — the residential and life skills component for their dream.
The shop is a non-profit called The Dignity Project, doing business as Well Grounded Coffee Community. Its website says it “blends coffee with philanthropy.”
The ambience of the store is historied. The wood panel walls were formerly in the Highland Park Cafeteria. Before the coffee shop opened, they bought artwork for the frames, stripped out the canvases and repainted each frame. The words of their mission statement: work, education, community and faith appear in separate frames along with creatively hung coffee paraphernalia.
Two baristas were hired in November to help finish out and decorate the space. The other two came on in December.
Waltersheid came on in November. At 41, she is a tier-two barista at the restaurant. She lives with two children: Lukas, 11 years old, and Jacob, 7 years old. She also has an older daughter and an 8-month-old grandson. She speaks effusively of what the coffee community has done for her — services included helping her get a car, supporting her education and providing donations of gently used clothing for her family. The shop also arranges free, no-penalty checking accounts for the women through First United Bank.
Waltersheid recently moved out of an apartment provided by Exodus Ministries. While women live at Exodus, they can’t have a car but Waltersheid saved money for one and Well Grounded matched her $2,500.
“It’s much easier to get a good car with more money,” Waltersheid said. She now owns a 2010 Toyota. It relieves her of the necessity of using public transportation. The coffee shop also helps her with college. Dallas College arranged for the women to attend for free.
The community itself also cares for the women. Judy and Sam Osteen, and David and Ann Barton attended the fundraiser and are gifting Waltersheid with a new laptop computer.
Natalie said two other women had new laptops bought by the coffee community members as well. A huge boost came from the Dentists of White Rock. They fixed the women’s teeth after years of getting no dental care.
Weir, 36 and a tier-two barista, recently moved to another transitional apartment after finishing her work and counseling at Exodus. She tried to get an apartment but was unable to because of her record. She continues to work on her education, getting a variety of certificates online, which will help her find a career she wants.
Board member Alyx Jones puts in hours at the store daily and really pushes the education part of the mission. It shows in the number of certificates and courses the women have finished.
Dorsey, at 31, is the youngest of the group and is a barista in training. She’s been at the coffee house for four months. While Weir and Waltersheid had stories to tell about their growing up or abusive relationships that drove them to drugs, Dorsey is a different story.
“My life was pretty normal,” Dorsey said. “My parents didn’t do drugs. They were great parents.” Dorsey also didn’t blame others for her drug addiction. She said she didn’t get into the wrong crowd. “If anything, I was the wrong crowd,” she said.
Maricela Espinoza is a two-tier barista who left Well Grounded for another job in July. For Natalie, Espinoza’s leaving is like a graduation. The Well Grounded people have done their part in building the women’s confidence, helping them learn skills and leadership and being able to work as a team.
The goal of the community, says the website, is to be the vehicle that “creates opportunity for individuals who are barely surviving life and helps them reach a higher level of purpose and social contribution.” These women are proof that the program works.
“This place has helped me in so many ways,” Waltersheid said. “I cannot thank them enough for caring for me and helping me. Everyone is so wonderful. It’s just like home.”
And the fundraiser itself was a great success. Not only did it raise money, but many attendees filled out forms volunteering their help to raise money or awareness by helping with social media and future events.