by Stephen Dafoe
There is a laminated drawing of a tree next to the Community Bulletin Board at Higher Grounds Espresso Bar in downtown Morinville. On it are multi-coloured leaves, each redeemable for a coffee, soup or full meal.
The process is simple. Those with a little money to spare can pre-pay for a coffee or meal, and those who lack the funds can take a leaf and get the food they need.
Higher Grounds Manager Elisabeth Melvin said assistant manager Kim Mills came up with the idea after hearing about the program. After discussing it with the staff, they decided to put the plan into place.
“What I’m seeing is there are a lot of givers in our community. There is a surplus of givers. It’s a beautiful thing because the people who are giving – you see that satisfaction of wanting to give back to the community and help the less fortunate,” Melvin said. “We have people that will come in, grab a leaf off of the Tree and bring it to the counter. There’s no shame or explanation needed. They lay down a leaf, and they get a meal.”
Melvin said the program is part of the culture Higher Grounds has created in the community of being a welcoming place for all to gather.
“The culture is already set that they know they [people in need] can come and get a meal. I never really did promote the Giving Tree. I think putting it beside the Community Board allowed people to see it for themselves and envision for themselves.”
Melvin and the volunteers at the shop are pleased with the giving nature of Morinville and area residents that are regulars at the shop.
Staff are seeing the program impacting the community in a couple of ways. Providing a meal for those in need in a non-judgemental way and allowing the community an opportunity to give back and help others.
“It can start at the simplicity of buying someone a cup of coffee and go all the way up to a lunch combo,” she said. “Whatever the person’s need is that day, they can choose for themselves and come up to the counter.”