/ Modified may 2, 2023 10:31 a.m.

Coffee shop helps women get back on their feet

The non-profit is for women transitioning back into society.

Wanderlust Kaffee Wanderlust Kaffee in Sierra Vista, AZ.
Summer Hom, AZPM

It’s more than just a cup of coffee. For some, it’s a lifeline, a door that’s opened when all others have closed. Ultimately, it’s a chance to start fresh and get back on track.

That’s what Wanderlust Kaffee has done for the past six years since it opened in 2017. Located off of 2nd St. and Bartow Dr., the coffee shop serves a variety of coffee drinks, lattes, teas, specialty drinks, and non-coffee opinions while giving women in transition a safe place to work and access to resources to help them with things such as finding housing and counseling services.

“I tell people, like, ‘even if you don’t think you’re giving back when you come and buy anything whether that’s coffee, a Danish or baked items, you’re actually contributing and giving back,’” said Danielle Sheppard, the owner of Wanderlust Kaffee. “It’s a perfect circle that helps the women's homestay on its feet.”

Sheppard said she opened it as a way to help women in her women’s transitional home Jennifer’s House find employment.

“A lot of ladies coming into the Jennifer House were unable to find work, whether they had a criminal background or they were recovering from substance abuse, or they hadn’t worked all their lives and their life circumstances kinda turned upside down,” Sheppard said.

According to Sheppard, the coffee shop has helped 24 women in total since it opened in 2017 and Jennifer’s House has helped six women.

The coffee shop is a nonprofit and all the proceeds from the coffee shop go towards the maintenance and operations of Jennifer’s House.

“If a woman comes to the women’s home and she’s unable to find work, or she’s not able to find enough work, we allow them to come in and either volunteer for community service or trade work hours for their lodging at the Jennifer House,” said Sheppard. “Or, they might not need any volunteer service or any extra work, but we train them as a barista and we put them in that environment, you know, operating a business or managing a business.”

That’s exactly what happened to Cheyenne Cota, who’s now one of the baristas at Wanderlust Kaffee and the case manager at Jennifer’s House.

Cheyenne Cota Cheyenne Cota is one of the baristas at Wanderlust Kaffee and the case manager at Jennifer’s House.
Summer Hom, AZPM

“I actually was incarcerated for five years,” Cota said. “I ended up looking to get out and finding a transitional home to come out and start my life again. I ran into the Jennifer House online, and my CO3 (Correctional Counselor III) — which is a counselor in prison — sent me all the information and I filled it out six months before my release date. And I sent it to Danielle Sheppard and she responded right before I got out. And we did an interview on the phone, and accepted me right away.”

She says she first came to Jennifer’s House in 2018 and lived there for nine months before she graduated from the program and began living on her own.

“At the time at the Jennifer House, the first two weeks, I was out everywhere trying to find a job,” said Cota. “And it was very hard. At the time, Danielle had opened the coffee shop. And she took a chance on me and I’ve been here ever since …

“She (Sheppard) is my angel,” Cota said. “She was there to rescue me and help me out and guide me with everything I needed to go through.”

Sheppard says that she always enjoyed giving back.

“I’ve always enjoyed giving back and being able to help people — even if it’s just one person that I helped get out of a relationship,” Sheppard said. “It just turns my heart to gold. I think it’s part of my own coping, my own therapy, and I think it’s just wonderful. I meet so many great people and we work together as a village to help these ladies.”

Wanderlust Kaffee is open seven days a week.

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