Motorists heading north on Orange Street toward I-90 have probably noticed the absence of the brown-and-white coffee hut once located near the highway on-ramp. Higher Ground Coffee Shop, where caffeine drinkers could buy "coffee for a cause," closed earlier this month.
Its owner, Teen Challenge, a faith-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program for women, decided to sell the shop to Florence Coffee on March 1. Jan Henderson, executive director of Teen Challenge in Montana, says the funds will go toward expanding services to more women and growing the size of the organization's other business, the Teen Challenge Thrift Store.
"The last couple years we have just basically broke even and haven't really been making any money off of it, so we decided that the best thing we could do would be to put our resources into the thrift store," Henderson says. "It was a difficult decision because we all loved the coffee shop and it was pretty instrumental in vocational training."
Teen Challenge used Higher Ground as a training opportunity for women recovering from addiction. Those who were preparing to graduate from rehab went to the shop to learn social skills and prepare for the workforce. Amanda DeLong, 20, entered Teen Challenge as a 19-year-old with drug problems. She worked as a barista at Higher Ground for five months and says the experience helped her regain her confidence.
"All of us, before we go to Teen Challenge, we do drugs and so we don't really know how to deal with regular people in society and we don't trust people," she says. "Working there helped me to learn that I can trust other people, and I can talk to them and I can be confident around them and no one is going to hate me for being who I am. It was a really good experience for me."
DeLong, who now serves as an intern at Teen Challenge, says she will miss the coffee shop but trusts "God to open bigger doors if He's closing this one."