ARVADA -- Come in for the coffee, come back for the mission -- that’s the mantra of Global Goods and Coffee in the city’s Olde Town district.
“We want to lead with excellent service, excellent coffee, excellent pastries. Good atmosphere,” said Shaunessy McNeely, Executive Director of Health Programs for Global Refuge, the nonprofit organization that operates the coffee shop. “We want this to be the first place you want to come to get a really good cup of coffee. Then, when you find out we’re volunteers, and it’s for a cause, we want you to come back.”
Like Shaunessy said, the employees of the coffee shop are all volunteers, donating several hours a week towards Global Refuge’s cause -- building and sustaining clinics around the world to help refugees, as well as training some to become medics.
The nonprofit currently works in Uganda, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Global Refuge was founded in 2001 by Shaunessy and Jaden McNeely’s father, former University of Colorado football recruiting coordinator Brian McNeely, after a trip to the border between Thailand and Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.
“Immediately we hit the ground and he and I were talking and I’m saying, ‘Look. There’s stuff going on across the border that we never knew was happening. We should do something about it,’ and he was like, ‘Absolutely,’” Jaden said. “All of a sudden, it turned into, there’s people dying every single day, dropping dead from starvation. We immediately started buying bags of rice, hauling them across on boats -- things that just seemed practical.”
Brian and Jaden, and the college students that went along, all returned to Colorado, where Brian continued his football duties at CU.
“He loved CU football. He loved the players. He loved playing there at Folsom Field. I mean, there’s not really a more beautiful place in the nation to play,” Shaunessy said.
But Brian couldn’t shake what he witnessed on the trip overseas.
“We would watch recruiting videos and talk about Burma,” Jaden said. “How can we get rice into this area? How can we -- and it was that kind of relationship. And he would tell me more and more, ‘I can’t. I don’t have the drive I used to have.’”
Soon, Global Refuge was helping refugees worldwide, becoming more and more of a priority for the longtime football coach.
In 2008, the recession forced Global Refuge’s donor base to stop being as generous.
The organization needed something to sustain its funding, thus Global Thrift, on the Arvada/Westminster border, and Global Goods and Coffee were born.
“Rather than just having to go door-to-door to ask people to give … the idea of a thrift store came up because we’ve heard of other thrift stores and being able to be profitable on donated items. But then he wanted to think outside the box,” Shaunessy said. “So the idea of a coffee shop came about. There was two coffee shops in the area and my dad did not drink coffee. Maybe twice in his life.”
“We all love coffee, we’ve worked in places with some of the best coffee in the world. We said, let’s do coffee. No idea how to do it, but we said let’s do it,” said Jaden, Executive Director of Operations. “It’s harder than you think, but it’s also more rewarding, I think. It’s been a really neat opportunity to involve ourselves in the lives of 60-something volunteers and their own lives.”
Erica Bass donates several hours each week as a barista.
“I was like for real? Because how exactly would you run a coffeeshop with volunteers? Everyone’s passionate about what they’re doing. That’s how it works,” she said. “I think of it as a privilege, I really do. Opportunities like this to make a difference from the other side of the pond aren’t common.”
The organization was Brian McNeely’s dream come true, but it's longtime champion and leader was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2014. The coach and philanthropist died a little more than a year later at the age of 57 from angiosarcoma of the heart.
“We heard from a lot of staff members after he had passed, just sending their condolences,” Shaunessy said. “One in particular, Brian Cabral, was at CU for many years and we’ve seen him a few times since my dad passed away and he was just so warm and loving and he and my dad really got along well, so quite a few coaches came out of the woodwork.”
“I genuinely believe he didn’t believe he was going to be here a long time. And he worked that way, tirelessly. 24 hour days,” Jaden said of his football coach father. “His whole demeanor -- I’m going down fighting. He made it longer than most have ever made it with that.”
Today, Global Refuge is in the hands of Shaunessy and Jaden. His for profit business, Prep Tracker, is operated by Brian’s other daughter, LoriAnne McNeely.
Whether it's helping refugees or continuing his love for football, Brian’s legacy continues in his family.
“My dad was a very well spoken, articulate, joyful, passionate man,” Shaunessy said, “that had a really big heart.”
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