Patrons of the Minocqua Public Library can now enjoy a free cup of coffee with their Tuesday morning, thanks to students of the Lakeland WINGS (Working Independently And Gaining Self-Determination) Program out of Lakeland Union High School (LUHS) with their “Coffee Corner.”
Coffee Corner at the library
“We have an opportunity to partner with the library and more involved with the community,” special education teacher Jeannine Bolton said. “We’re doing this by offering complimentary coffee to patrons. The library has been a big supporter of WINGS since the beginning.”
WINGS students — who have special needs and disabilities and are ages 18 to 21 — are in the program to focus on the transition from high school to life as an adult. Their goals include basic life skills, independent living, connecting to community resources and recreation, building social abilities, finding postsecondary education and/or employment in the community instead of school and more.
Coffee Corner was under trial for the month of October, and went so well, it is now expected to be a weekly Tuesday event. It is open for about an hour from 10 to 11 a.m.
“We always thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a coffee shop in here?’” Minocqua Public Library director Peggy O’Connell said. “I think it’s added a lot to the community to have this here. This was a natural transition and next step. It’s good for the community to see the kids out and about. So far, I have nothing but positive things to say. It’s a treat for us, too.”
Students prepare for Coffee Corner at the high school’s “T-Bird Brew” by making the coffee — from filter and grounds and water, to preparing the cart and then traveling to set up at the library. Students learn and practice set-up, signage, customer service, serving and onto take-down, clean-up and working with the community as part of the entire experience, WINGS special education aide Joanne Kumpula explained.
“They are taking the skills they’ve learned in the high school setting and transitioning them into the community,” Bolton added.
Students have scripts that can help prompt them in serving customers and engaging them in the WINGS program.
“It’s nice to know we are here, and we have a place where students can develop skills to be more independent in their life,” Bolton said.
WINGS students also are active at the library by dusting and sorting electronic recyclables.
“It helps fine-tune their skills in a one-on-one setting. They can use this opportunity to develop their skill set,” Bolton said.
Coffee and condiments from WINGS is complimentary, though patrons can make a donation if they wish.
“It’s a nice added bonus for patrons’ Tuesday and the kids are really great. We enjoy seeing them here,” O’Connell said.
WINGS was initially housed out of Calvary Lutheran Church after it opened its doors to the program last year.
This fall, however, students have a new dedicated “nest,” Bolton indicated. It is now housed out of a residential apartment building in the Minocqua community at 8622 State Highway 51.
“This centralized location will offer students many opportunities, both within a residential setting and the community,” Bolton noted. “The new location allows for students to store and prepare items for meals, as well as do laundry.”
Students have the responsibility of maintenance of the apartment, as well as working together in planning events and activities within the apartment and the community.
Entrepreneurship skills at Gaslight
Another new arm to WINGS this autumn is the embarkment of a new entrepreneurial adventure at Gaslight Antique Mall in downtown Minocqua. Here, students take donated collectibles and antiques to the program and learn to apply their skills to running a business through Booth West 16, Bolton said.
Students price, inventory, sell and record all the ongoings of the booth. They also are handcrafting some items — including artwork, magnets and fire starters.
“(Gaslight) has been so welcoming and helps us maintain the booth when we can’t be there. They are super supportive of our students,” Bolton observed.
Money earned through the booth are used for program activities throughout the year.
Anyone who would like to learn more or to donate may contact Bolton at [email protected]