This. Is. My. Story.
A Spoken Word Showcase
On February 21, 2020, Uncommon Grounds Cafe presented a community storytelling and spoken word celebration in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.
“This. Is. My. Story.” is hosted by Andrenna Williams and features the voices and stories of Zabriawn Smith, Laturne Beasley Jr., Amber Dorsett, Jamie Smith, Jessical Jeffries-Spencer, Shane’na Jeter, Andrenna Williams, Melissa McKinney, Michele Witt, Jonathan MC, Scott Colburn, Laura Gilbert, Malkyah Bailey, Rich Brown, Yvonne Jackson, Taja Finley, Angelica Little, and Herb Bailey.
These stories will be archived in The Listening Library: Voices of Beaver County – a special community multimedia collaborative project that captures, preserves, and shares the voices and stories of our time.
Photo gallery by Erin Ninehouser
Video gallery by Christopher Padgett
Our Community Partner
Uncommon Grounds Cafe: Our Story
We’re more than just a great cafe. From art programs to community outreach to being the perfect venue for your event, we’re here to serve you and the community of Aliquippa. Have a look around our site, or better yet, come on down and visit!
Uncommon Grounds Café is run by evangelists and volunteers. We reach the least, the last, and the lost with the gospel of Christ through listening and offering dignity. We are a space for Churches to learn and practice the Great Commission through volunteering, work missions, and training. We are a space for transition from isolation to community. If you enjoy good food, excellent coffee, and you would like to “make a difference in the world,” we have a place for you.
Christ, Coffee, Culture.
Here are some things we do: Open Mic Nights, Monthly Veterans Appreciation Breakfasts, AA & NA Meetings, Ladies Night, Celebrate Recovery, Bible Studies, Summer Mission Teams, Urban Mission Training, The Bridge, and Womens Ministries.
When Church Army officer John Stanley arranged in 2001 for the purchase of an old store front on Franklin Avenue in Aliquippa, he expected he and other volunteers would have a working coffee shop ministry in six months, tops.
Then part of the building literally fell off.
Nearly four years of volunteer labor followed, but the results are impressive. Now, a fully functional café and coffee shop stands in what used to just be another run-down building. Of course, Uncommon Grounds isn’t really about just serving a good latte or even paying its bills (something Stanley never expects it to be able to do). It aspires to help a whole community heal and lead individuals to Jesus. “We’re here to change Aliquippa,” said Stanley. Sometimes that means connecting someone down on their luck with the proper social services, or just listening. In other moments, there may be opportunities for evangelism and guiding people to local churches.
But doing all those things is going to take volunteer labor a bit different than that required to refurbish the building. Stanley is currently in the process of recruiting what he hopes will be a team of 60 workers willing to make coffee, cook sandwiches and connect with patrons. He’s hoping Episcopal churches that supported Uncommon Grounds during the refurbishment phase, such as Church of the Ascension in Oakland, Prince of Peace in Hopewell, Church of the Savior in Ambridge, Fox Chapel, and St. Stephen’s in Sewickley, will be joined by others all over the Diocese as well other congregations of many denominations from all over the Aliquippa area in sending volunteers and making use of the café.
Before being put to work, all volunteers undergo an extensive training course designed to help them not only know how to make various coffee drinks, but also how to work with patrons and deal with difficult situations and people. The key concept, said Stanley is to act towards others as Jesus did. More than 20 have already taken the training, he added. However, more volunteers will enable Uncommon Grounds to be open more often and more regularly. Though, as Stanley says, “the whole point of being here is to serve people, not to serve food.”
Besides providing coffee and conversation, Uncommon Grounds also acts as the home for an Aliquippa church, hosts Bible studies, features music on it stage and art on its walls. It is the future home of Aliquippa Community Enterprise, a ministry that works with incarcerated women in Aliquippa. Uncommon Grounds also has hosted a number of church youth events and other activities.
With the café complete, the coffee on and visitors flowing through the doors day after day, Stanley is excited to see what God has planned for Uncommon Grounds. He is especially happy to see the broad cross section of people who are visiting. “Everyone, from the wealthy to the very poor, is stopping in. Part of my understanding of a healthy community is that it’s diverse,” he said.
The Listening Library: Voices of Beaver County believes in the humanizing power of storytelling to enlighten, connect, and inspire. The Library is a multimedia archive of stories, photographs, and conversations that explore and reveal Beaver County’s historic heritage, social diversity, environmental richness, and community spirit.
Your Voice Matters
The Listening Library: Voices of Beaver County appreciates that history is happening now, in the work we do, the causes we support, the setbacks and struggles we endure, and the relationships we build that uplift our communities. You are an important part of the full picture that future generations need to see to understand our part of the world, their place in it, and their power to shape it. We invite you to share your experiences.
More Storytelling & Listening
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