10 Things I Can't Live Without
Six years ago, Kenny Sipes resigned his position as youth pastor at a local church without a backup plan. To all who knew him, it was completely unexpected. A passionate leader, Kenny loved “his” kids and loved engaging them in service even more. From the streets of East St. Louis to the African desert, Kenny saw kids’ attitudes and lives changed by using their hearts, hands, and minds to help people facing unimaginable circumstances. His wife, Lori understood and supported the decision. She had sensed a growing restlessness and encouraged him to find a new path. After a few months went by without a clear direction (or job), Kenny recalls that she did get a little nervous. Thankfully, an exploratory trip to Nashville yielded an idea that would combine his passion for leading with a love of service and would give Columbus a coffeehouse with an unparalleled sense of community.
Celebrating its 4th anniversary this year, The Roosevelt Coffeehouse keeps the corner of 6th and Long hopping. It has become the place to see and be seen, though no one who prides themselves on being a “regular” would ever admit it. From political leaders to students, struggling artists to famous rock stars, Kenny sees them all as friends - and fellow contributors to The Roosevelt’s nonprofit, Redeeming Injustice, which addresses three important social issues: human trafficking, access to clean water, and hunger. The recent annual report (in the form of an infographic and distributed to stakeholders as a table display) paints the picture of how Kenny and his team have turned a commodity like coffee into meaningful social impact. Since the inception, over $100,000 has been distributed to over a dozen nonprofits including local organizations like Faith Mission and international efforts like the construction of a basketball court in Somalia.
For Kenny, the financial impact of The Roosevelt is only one piece of the puzzle. He views The Roosevelt as a platform to raise public awareness in a divisive climate about three issues that are pretty non-debatable. As he recently said, “no matter your culture or your faith, you can agree that no one should be enslaved, people should have access to clean water, and no one should be hungry.” With a laid-back demeanor that masks a high-energy, results-driven personality, Kenny isn’t slowing down. In 2018 he launched the Roosevelt Coffee Roasters and approved a new, licensed location at Olentangy River Brewing Co. Up this year? A second location in the cool new Gravity Project in East Franklinton, funded in part by a generous $75,000 grant from The Columbus Foundation.
1. Family - the backbone of my journey. Launching The Roosevelt was a risk that stripped all the worldly security we had built in the preceding three decades. Without my parents, my wife Lori, and my children (Emma, Ethan, Jack, Miles) the rest of this list is meaningless.
2. Faith in Christ. To be honest, the church can be messy, but it doesn’t change the power, the beauty and the perfection of the Savior. I am nothing without that relationship.
3. Companionship. The older I get, the less I like to be alone. So whether I’m working in our warehouse or at the shop, I’m always seeking out community in those spaces because of that affinity for human interaction.
4. Music. Music is more incredible than any of us give it credit for. Back in the day I ran a record shop, and my attachment to what I hear is super important. I maintain an ever-evolving playlist of music. Pretty sure I was the only person in the world whose top three albums of 2018 were Tierra Whack, Brandi Carlile, and Me’Shell N’dege’Ocello.
5. Serving Students. For three years I have volunteered in the student ministry in my church. I guess I am the one who’s leading, but the authenticity and wisdom of teenagers is an admirable kind of leadership that many people ignore. The highlight of my week is late night Taco Bell with fifty teenagers.
6. Risk. The last five years have basically been a continuous step into risk and a faith-builder for me. When it comes to faith, the time it is needed the most is when you risk - otherwise, faith is unnecessary.
7. Mexican food. It never fails me.
8. Social Media. I’m hooked to it. And I am OK with that.
9. Action flicks. They are the mindless activity I use to check out when the day or week is done. You might golf, I await the next Bourne movie.
10. My staff. There are no words. Trust me. Have them make your coffee and then engage with them personally. They are special. Go find out.
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