Little Bean brewing up anonymous act of charity, kindness

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Shelly Birkelo
Saturday, January 18, 2014

JANESVILLE—A concept that has taken off in other cities and puts a new spin on paying it forward only had to percolate a short time in Amanda Byrne's mind before being fully brewed.

The co-owner of The Little Bean Bistro, 101 E. Milwaukee St., Suite 120, learned about suspended coffees on a Facebook page. It made her realize how a simple and inexpensive idea could bring immediate joy to someone in need.

"When I saw the posting, my mind went into overdrive. What if we did this? What if everyone did this? How wonderful it would be," she said.

After discussing doing it with co-owner Victor Torres and her staff, they agreed it was something they wanted to do, Byrnes said.

She explained how it works at The Little Bean.

You come in, order a cup of coffee for yourself and pay for another cup of coffee in advance as an anonymous act of charity. The Little Bean also offers a cup of soup or other hot beverage as part of its suspended coffee concept.

A cup of suspended coffee or hot chocolate is $1.50 while a bowl of soup is $3.50, said Janet Lund, barista.

Since starting this anonymous act of charity and kindness Jan. 3, about 100 suspended hot beverages and another 100 suspended bowls of soup have been purchased at The Little Bean, Lund said.

During this same time an average of five people a day have benefited from the suspended purchases, Torres said.

Byrnes has promoted the suspended coffee on Facebook, with a window posting at the downtown bistro and by contacting a number of local nonprofit charities including Project 16:49 and ECHO to House of Mercy and the GIFTS homeless shelters to the local Y organizations and teachers.

But Byrnes and her staff stress the suspended coffees aren't just for the homeless.

 “If someone is going through a rough time and in need of a hot beverage, we will serve it to them. We don't always know if they're homeless and operate on an honor system.” Lund said.

It's also done discreetly.

For example, the executive director of GIFTS has given her business card to program participants who simply and quietly show it to Little Bean staff to receive a hot beverage, Lund said.

“That's important because they have pride, too. We want them to feel welcome with no discrimination,” she said.

Other locally owned coffee shops don't offer the suspended coffee concept but are contributing to the community in other ways, said spokespersons at Lucy's Loon Lake Coffee and Deli and Mocha Moment.

The concept has been considered a success so far by Byrnes' staff, which believes it will grow in popularity.

 “Over 24,000 people looked at Amanda's initial Facebook posting,” Torres said.

 “It's just starting and we've already had people call and buy suspended coffees with credit or debit cards online from as far away as Rockford and Kenosha,” Lund said.

 “We're paying it forward to the community," she said. She hoped the community would accept this with open arms and they have,” she said.

Recipients of the suspended coffees have been appreciative as well.

“One guy must have said thank you five times, he was so grateful,” Torres said.

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