Mission Coffee is a grassroots Veteran owned business that began in 2018 and aims at connecting military Veterans to one another in a relaxing and informal way. Even better still, Veterans are building bonds through their shared love of coffee.
“The mission of Mission Coffee is just to sit down and have a cup of coffee and start the conversation,” says President Dave DiFranco. It’s no secret that American Veterans suffer from startling rates of PTSD, and while the suffering remains the same, all Veterans deal with post-traumatic stress differently. “According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder.”
These statistics can vary across generations and wars; however, most Veterans have difficulties reaching out for help, and as time goes by this becomes increasingly detrimental to their mental health and well-being. That’s something that DiFranco understands all too well. “My dad was a WWII veteran, and I lost him to PTSD, to suicide,” says DiFranco soberly. And suddenly the goal of Mission Coffee becomes clear: communication and support must be coordinated for Veterans in need of assistance, and great tasting coffee is the focal point.
Mission Coffee is not simply about fundraising; it is a Veteran services organization that gives back to their local community. “We served our coffee at the Kiwanis country club dinner this year. People are really enjoying it. We use local roasters, and last year, we sent coffee to Afghanistan for our troops out there. The best blend everyone likes is our Bakery blend. 90% of people love it, and it has a good kick! When you open the coffee, it has an aroma. It’s all Arabica beans. We don’t do anything without Arabica beans. There are no fillers, no chemical enhancers. We don’t use the chemicals that aren’t good for you,” boasts DiFranco.
Mission Coffee sells high quality coffee to the public, and a portion of every bag sold supports local Veteran initiatives. “When you’re having a cup of coffee, it [is] nice to think that you’re sipping on something that actually helps Veterans,” adds DiFranco. If Veterans can gather and unwind over a cup of coffee in a relaxed setting, then Mission Coffee has served their purpose.
While coffee is its main initiative, Mission Coffee serves military Vets in other ways, as well, playing many other critical roles across the Western NY community and nationwide. Veterans and their families have benefited from their support in recent years and continue to do so with programs like Clear Path for Veterans, V.P.A.C (Veterans Plus Assistance Corp.), and K9 Companions for Rochester. Programs like these are more specialized in their focus and are instrumental in guiding Veterans when returning home from war, learning a new occupation, and/or re-entering the workforce, as well as the value of caring for a special K9 companion.
Animals have always been known to boost mental health and longevity, but DiFranco believes four-legged companions have a lasting impact on Veterans that many underestimate. “Offering companionship to these older Veterans especially—they’re in their 60s, 70s and 80s—is amazing. We just donated a pet to a Korean Veteran. I can read their eyes. I hear them speaking to me with their eyes about those things that they just won’t say, and I know that I won’t ask questions that they just won’t answer. Once they realize the pain that they have held in for all these years, it’s almost like a slow blink of their eyes and a nod, and nothing else has to be said. I am accepted by those who have served, I think, because I understand. It’s a great responsibility.”
A great responsibility like that comes with great rewards. Mission Coffee volunteers rescue abandoned, neglected, and mistreated cats over time and rehome them with military Veterans and their families. Frequently, the animals are lovingly cared for and maintained for years by Mission Coffee volunteers before ever being released to a Vet. When a cat does get adopted by a military Vet, it gains a new lease on life, and in many cases, so does the Vet.
Other programs under the Mission Coffee umbrella, like K9 Companions for Rochester, enable Vets to adopt dogs in need of a loving home, at no cost to them. However, for older Vets, a more suitable companion is often a cat. A Vet will never be charged for an adoption expense or for the cost of caring for their newly adopted pet: that’s the idea behind Mission Coffee. None of this would be possible without the long list of supporters, volunteers, and fundraising efforts that help make Mission Coffee a reality.
Another essential program under the Mission Coffee umbrella is Combat Comedians, spearheaded by the famed Ralph Tetta. Tetta himself formerly toured with the renowned George Carlin and knows all too well the profound healing power of comedy and the gift of laughter. Shows like Combat Comedians give Veterans a chance to talk about their military experiences and find humor in tragedy.
Always leveraging community involvement, Mission Coffee’s goal is to keep growing to better serve their Veterans in need. Their reach knows no bounds, and recently they’ve partnered with Hanger Prosthetics, a prosthetic company that has been helping to fit Veterans with prosthetics since the Civil War. Veterans can have prosthetics designed for them to meet their individual needs, free of cost and obligation.
Mission Coffee believes in #OneTeam, #OneFight. Their driving force is a firm passion for community involvement through fundraising, volunteerism, and, most of all, coffee. The next time you buy coffee, consider buying coffee beans through Mission Coffee. You might just be starting a life-changing conversation for a Veteran in need.