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New coffee shop in Amherst to promote efforts to end human trafficking

The Amherst Project, formed by the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, is planning The Freedom Cafe at 768 North Pleasant St. as one of its community ministries.

General Manager Daniel Johnson said the purpose of the cafe will be to give students the opportunity to get involved in the issue.

“Our overarching goal is to basically create a culture for college students to have an ‘other-centered’ way of looking at life,” said Johnson, who is also a campus chaplain for Chi Alpha, a registered student organization at UMass.

The proposal for the cafe comes before the Planning Board Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. at the Town Room at Town Hall.

The cafe, which has a motto of “drink coffee, end slavery,” will be created inside 209 square feet of space, in a garage, at the former fraternity house. Four tenants live at the residence, renting out rooms in the two-story home, which also contains the religious offices and meeting space for Chi Alpha.

Johnson said people who purchase fair trade coffee at the Freedom Cafe will make a lasting impact, with all proceeds going to Jubilee Market, an organization setting up vocational centers in India that can work with 100 women at a time.

Johnson said the hope is to sell enough coffee each day to fund the startup of a new vocational center in India every two years. How much money is brought in will depend on sponsorships for purchasing the beans and supplies, including cups, sugar and creamer, he said. The staff will be volunteers, often those who live at the home, Johnson said.

Amherst Senior Planner Christine Brestrup said because The Freedom Cafe is considered a religious use and not a commercial entity, it can’t be restricted from the residential neighborhood. But the town can exert controls. “The Planning Board is mostly interested in issues that would affect neighborhoods,” Brestrup said.

One issue she has flagged for consideration is whether there is sufficient parking for the four tenants and any customers who may drive to the site. All coffee will be for take-out only and there is not expected to be food sold. The cafe would be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A second Freedom Cafe, located near the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., is expected to open around the same time, Johnson said.

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