A cup of coffee can be strong. But who knew it could be strong enough to renew faith, rebuild trust and restore a mother’s relationship with her child?
Well Grounded Coffee Community, a nonprofit shop that employs formerly incarcerated women from Exodus Ministries, opened its doors in December 2020. Fast-forward several months into 2021, and four women from the program, a Christian organization, are now employed at the coffee shop in East Dallas’ Casa Linda area — and dreaming again.
“Their work ethic is incredible, and they are very grateful and humble,” says Natalie Huscheck, who is Well Grounded Coffee Community’s co-president, along with her husband, Michael.
“It’s so fun to watch them start to dream again. To move from survival mode into where they can start thinking and dreaming and creating.”
In addition to building a fresh life with newfound freedom after spending time behind bars, the baristas the couple employ all share the bond of motherhood.
The women were convicted for multiyear sentences on varied charges. Upon serving their terms, they were accepted into Exodus Ministries, a program for non-violent offenders. The organization serves as a bridge to their new life with their children.
“We are giving women and their children some of the foundational building blocks that they might’ve missed along the way,” says executive director Susan Stephens.
“By doing that, we are restoring dignity, confidence and self-esteem while helping them rebuild brokenness and burnt bridges in their life. It’s all orchestrated in such a way to set them up for success.”
Huscheck, herself a mother of seven, says the women need a second chance.
“They made a mistake and paid for it, and for them to live the rest of their lives with doors slammed is very frustrating,” she says. “We don’t serve in a way that we’re up here and you’re down there. We walk this journey together, and my life is a million times more blessed and more purposeful for having been able to start this.”
Four of the women in the program shared their reflections on employment and how it has strengthened relationships with their children and given them a sense of opportunity, advancement and newly forged friendships.
Natasha Weir gave birth to her third child while incarcerated. As soon as she got out of prison, she was determined to put herself in an environment where she could be reunited with her infant son. She happened to find a flyer for Exodus Ministries. After being accepted to the program, which also provides housing for women and their children, she received her GED and soon met Huscheck. Weir started working for the coffee shop before the doors were even open and had input on the menu and shop aesthetic. She also helped prep for the opening.
“I feel like I have a sense of accomplishment, and having a routine helps me to be a better mom,” Weir says.
She says the women at Well Grounded Coffee Community are more than co-workers. She considers them her family now. “We go out of our way to help each other,” Weir says.
Maricela Espinosa is the shop’s head cook and opens it up before dawn each morning. She was hired in November 2020 and created much of the menu. She is also the mother of a 12-year-old daughter, whom she could not be with while incarcerated for two years.
“This job is helping my relationship get stronger with my daughter and just me being able to come home to her,” Espinosa says.
Espinosa says that her daughter loves coming to the shop on weekends and beams with pride as she watches her mother work. When the mother-daughter duo aren’t at the coffee shop, they love having dinner together and watching TikTok.
Angela Walterscheid, who has an adult daughter and two young sons, joined the barista lineup in January. It was important to her, and for the relationship with her daughter in particular, to find a place she could live on her own with her two boys. She was thankful to find Exodus Ministries for that reason, and she was also happy that it was Christian-centered.
“I never had a job where I felt like I’m not just a person to come and do work. I feel important here,” Walterscheid says. “And I’ve never had bosses that go out of their way to include our kids in everything.”
The Huschecks coordinate children-focused family activities for the mothers they employ, including a recent spiritual retreat to Great Wolf Lodge and an Easter celebration complete with balloons and blowing bubbles.
Walterscheid says working at Well Grounded is more than a job. The supportive environment has helped her erase the stigma of incarceration. And perhaps the most inspiring event that has transpired since her employment is the mending of her relationship with her daughter.
“My daughter’s really proud of me, and our relationship has gotten a lot better,” Walterscheid says. “And she says, ‘Mom, I can’t wait to see how well you do and show anyone who’s ever had something bad to say about you how far you’ve come.’”
Hannah Dorsey started at Well Grounded Coffee Community in early April. One of the newest members of Exodus Ministries — she finished her sentence in January 2021 — Dorsey noticed Weir, Espinosa and Walterscheid wearing their Well Grounded shirts each day and would ask if they were hiring.
“They never said anything bad about work, and you never run into a group of women who don’t have not one bad thing to say about work or each other,” Dorsey says. “So finally, they were hiring, and I got the job.”
Dorsey’s son, who is 12, lives with her at Exodus, and she says he is the driving force each and every day. She says that if there’s one thing she wants to instill in him, it’s a solid work ethic, and now she can lead by example.
“I think it will help me by showing him a good work ethic,” Dorsey says. “Before, I didn’t have that. I think it’s really important for me to teach him that work is important and it’s not easy going to work every day. But I want him to know it’s important for me to do that for him.”
Sign up for the Well Grounded Coffee Community newsletter at wellgrounded.coffee.
Find details on Exodus Ministries at exodusministries.org.
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