Volunteer-run coffee shop reopens for spring semester

To many students and members of Allegheny College’s community, Grounds for Change is just like any other college campus coffee shop, but to the volunteers of the organization, GFC is much more than that. GFC is an all-volunteer and student-run coffeehouse on  Allegheny’s campus.

This organization provides an alternative space on campus for socializing, studying, intellectual discussion and debate and is host to community and campus events.

GFC strives to support environmentally sustainable practices which include the purchasing of recycled materials as well as organic, fair trade and locally grown and produced products.

Rachael Robertson, ’17, a board member for GFC, said their main goal is to create a space that everyone on campus can utilize.

“We strive to provide local, ethical and organic coffee, tea, espresso and food at reasonable prices while also providing a space conducive to studying, hanging out and fun events,” Robertson said. “Allegheny’s campus and the Meadville community don’t really have an accessible space that can serve all of these needs, which is why student volunteers work to maintain the space, constantly improve it and to run day-to-day operations.”

Breanna Whiting, ’17, GFC treasurer, said that the campus coffee shop is committed to being an inclusive environment.

“Every board member has participated in a Bystander or Safe Zone training and we do our best to collaborate with many of the other student clubs on campus to provide a wide variety of programming and to ensure the community that everyone is welcome in the space,” Whiting said.

John Paulowski, ’19, a GFC regular, enjoys frequently visiting the coffee shop to take a break from his busy college schedule.

“I enjoy going to Grounds for Change to get something to drink to help me get through my days full of class and basketball,” said Paulowski. “It’s a great safe place, where all different people from all different cultures can come together and share a quality cup of tea, coffee or milkshake while also studying for classes and socializing.”

There is a lot of work and volunteers that help with the successful running process of the organization.

“This semester we have over 100 student volunteers that fill the 100, hour-long time slots, seven days a week to keep our space going,” Whiting said.  “We depend on our volunteers a great deal, as it would be impossible to keep the space open without them.”

Whiting said GFC tries to be a place where individuals can do more than just share a cup of coffee or tea.

“We often try a wide variety of events in the space,” said Whiting. “We have concerts and open mic nights, the Center for Political Participation has hosted discussions over lunch hours about various topics, professors will bring their classes in for a change of scenery, and clubs will have open meetings in our space with a tab for drinks. We even host events ourselves that reflect our appreciation for our volunteers. We have supported individuals who weren’t associated with a club but were passionate about something and needed a space to bring people together.”

The financial situations of the organization, particularly how GFC gets funded and where all of the profits go to, is based off of contributions from the school Whiting said.

“The first source of funding comes from Allegheny Student Government and the Student Activities Fee that goes towards every student club,” said Whiting. “We use this budget to bring bands in for concerts, buy our volunteers appreciation gifts for all of their hard work, support other clubs who wish to collaborate and host events in our space that may have smaller budgets and general purchases that spruce up the space.”

Another source of funding comes from the profits that GFC makes.  Whiting said that those funds are used strictly to purchase only the necessary supplies to maintain the business.

Whiting said there are occasional negative comments about how GFC has reputation around campus that they only welcome a select few of individuals.

“There seems to be a social stigma around campus that only certain people hang out in GFC and we do have our regulars, but we truly welcome anyone that wants to come in,” Whiting said. “You’ll always find a friendly face that will help you choose your first drink and then join you to do homework.”