HAVERFORD — When the Kelly Center for Music, Arts and Community opened its doors three months ago at 4-6 E. Eagle Road in the Oakmont section of Havertown, area residents welcomed a special new venue where they could hear professional performers, singer-songwriters, comedians and more.

The multi-purpose space also provides a live performance opportunity for developing young musicians, singers, writers and other students interested in developing their craft and showcasing their talents. Located next door to Katz Pharmacy, inside the building that once housed Goodman’s 5 and 10 store and then a tutoring service, the new venue aims to provide a year-round home to music and arts programs for children, teens, adults and seniors.

The Kelly Music Center includes a stage with professional sound and lights and a viewing area that seats approximately 95 people. The icing on the cake at the new Kelly Center came to the community even more recently, with the opening of the Center’s New Avenue Café just a few weeks ago.

Located inside the Kelly Center’s state-of-the-art listening room, the unique New Avenue Café, managed by Jim Wurster of the New Avenue Foundation, offers freshly brewed coffee, espresso, lattes, and cappuccino, as well as a variety of cold drinks and smoothies. The café will also sell coffee by the pound, ground to a customer’s specifications. Freshly baked goods, such as muffins, cookies, bagels and more, made by Kia’s Cakes in Lansdowne, will also be sold at the café as well as salads, wraps, fruit parfaits, and other light fare.

The Kelly Center’s recently opened café is already offering an assortment of new events, from storytimes for children to “lunch and learn” programs for adults.

The New Avenue Café, which offers free WiFi and multiple charging stations, is a comfortable setting to hang out with friends, listen to music, get some work done or just relax with a good cup of coffee, while supporting a positive social initiative of employing adults with disabilities in meaningful employment.

What makes the café different from others is that it’s “coffee for a cause.” The cafe is a project of New Avenue Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 by Jim Wurster and Tom Reinke, two Delaware County fathers of adult daughters with disabilities. The two dads wanted to expand the social and employment opportunities for their daughters, as well as others with disabilities, and to ensure that all members of their local communities would feel welcomed and valued. 

The mission of the New Avenue Foundation is to create more meaningful lives for people with disabilities and autism, and to reduce dependence on the government programs that often support these individuals.  Governed by a board of parents, community residents and civic leaders, the New Avenue Foundation works to provide other opportunities for community inclusion, through activities, education, creative housing arrangements and service projects. The New Avenue Café is one of those opportunities. Now, six years after its inception, New Avenue Foundation’s employment initiative is taking root with the New Avenue Café at the Kelly Center for Music, Arts, and Community.

“We ultimately want to give people with disabilities the opportunity for skills and a paycheck with the goal of taking those skills elsewhere,” Wurster explained. “The key word at the New Avenue Café is ‘opportunity.”

The Kelly Center is owned by Kelly Music for Life, a 501c3 non-profit led by Haverford residents and brothers, Tom Kelly and Paul Kelly and their wives, Sheri and Susan. The New Avenue Café will rent the space from Kelly Center and pay a portion of sales to them. According to Wurster, after overhead, all other profits will be used for paying employees and to grow the business.

Wurster, a resident of Springfield and former senior software engineer with PNC GIS and BNY Mellon before becoming CEO of the New Avenue Foundation,  said that he felt the timing was right to open the café. A coffee company in Media coincidentally went out of business and was selling their equipment, around the same time that the Kelly Center was opening. He was able to afford the purchase and realize his dream.

The friends of the New Avenue Foundation have been hard at work for several years to raise funds to get the coffee counter business, up and running. Just as the Kelly Music For Life Center was a dream realized through massive fundraising efforts, so was the New Avenue Café.

Volunteers sell bags of freshly roasted coffee at area flea markets, music festivals, and to local businesses, as well as hold bingos and other fundraisers, raising the capital needed to further the goals of its mission. The foundation is currently planning a designer handbag bingo for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at St. Luke Greek Orthodox Community Center, 35 N. Malin Road, Broomall.

The foundation also accrues funds through private donations. Just recently, the children in the Vacation Bible School at Temple Lutheran Church in Havertown raised $2300 to donate to the New Avenue Foundation.

In addition to operating the New Avenue Café inside Kelly Music Center, the New Avenue Foundation also operates Our Community Cup Coffeehouse at Tree of Life Church, Springfield. People of all abilities come together each Friday night to enjoy dinner and live music in a safe and welcoming environment. Although it began as a venue for individuals with disabilities and other members of the community to share a musically-inspired Friday night, the venue has become equally important to area musicians who can practice, try new material and gauge community feedback from an appreciative audience. Additionally, the New Avenue Foundation hosts open mic and karaoke at Temple Lutheran Church, Havertown, on the first two Mondays of each month, with coffee, snacks, fellowship, singing, and sometimes a bit of dancing.

“We are not a service provider,” said Wurster. “We just want to offer caring, compassionate environments for people to sit, relax and enjoy or to work as a volunteer.”

Coffee served at the Kelly Center’s New Avenue Café comes from Furnace Hills Coffee in Maryland, a coffee roasting company  with a commitment to hire people that are developmentally disabled and a mission much like New Avenue's. 

“We hit it off with the owner of Furnace Hills Coffee because, not only do they roast great coffee, but we both have daughters with disabilities and that’s what these businesses are all about,” Wurster said.

Wurster said that New Avenue Foundation hopes someday in the near future to have an operational micro-roasting facility of their own to provide another work opportunity for more adults with disabilities.

The New Avenue Café and Wurster’s social events are all important components of the New Avenue Foundation and its mission of inclusion, he said.

“We want people to come here and have fun, enjoy themselves in a safe environment, learn new skills and meet new people” Wurster said. “We hope there’s a mixture of people with disabilities and others in the community so they can learn from one another. We are always open to new, creative ideas and I hope community members will reach out to us.”

Wurster said that he is currently talking with both Haverford School District and CADES in Swarthmore about opportunities for students to come into the café with job coaches to learn job skills for future employment.

The New Avenue Foundation website states that “community inclusion is one of the greatest challenges facing people with disabilities. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities often do not participate in community activities in a meaningful way, in roles that allow them to demonstrate their abilities, establish true relationships with others, earn recognition and respect from others, learn new skills, or simply to have fun. True community inclusion must be based upon personal connections, common interests, shared values, and upon ongoing interactions that occur as people with disabilities and community residents encounter each other on a regular basis in natural settings, such as at church, the grocery store, at restaurants, and other community settings.”

“The New Avenue Café, as well as our other events, are all meant to foster inclusion, as well as create more understanding and awareness of others,” Wurster stated.

The New Avenue Foundation will run the café and employ people with disabilities to help manage and staff the shop during its hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The café will also be open during special events at the Kelly Music Center.

In addition to Wurster, the café will also be managed by Andrea Kasper, a New Avenue Foundation Board Member and a Title I Reading and Special Education teacher who retired from Sabold Elementary School in the Springfield School District in 2017.

Wurster and Kasper hope to operate three shifts on weekdays and two on the weekend. Everyone will start as a volunteer and eventually become employees.

“I hope local residents, as well as anyone passing through, will come out and enjoy a cup or two of the Café’s coffee and sample our other products to support the New Avenue Foundation’s mission,” Wurster said. ”It’s a feel-good place. I know once customers come here, they’ll be back again soon!”

For more information about donating, volunteering or employment opportunities, contact Jim Wurster at jim@newfdn.org, 610-246-8939 or visit www.kellycenter.org or “the New Avenue Café” on Facebook.

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