NORMAN — Josh Hammell never intended to spend most of his day standing behind an industrial-sized coffee maker. His degree is in communication and religious studies.
But sometimes a force bigger than ourselves has a different idea of how we should spend our lives. Nobody knows that more than Hammell, who seems quite at home brewing up those double lattes with nonfat milk.
Hammell has accepted that he is right where he’s supposed to be: the director of Second Wind Coffee House. More than just a barista, Hammell also is a mentor to all who cross his path.
“I really like having a job that is meaningful and helping people,” he said.
A mission of First Presbyterian Church, Second Wind Coffee House has been a Campus Corner staple for many years, and Hammell has been there just as long, brewing up one of the best cups of coffee in town.
“The growth of this place has been happening about a decade,” Hammell said. “About 10 years ago, they (First Presbyterian Church) started using the building as a place for college students to meet for lunches on Sundays, Bible studies and concerts featuring local artists on Fridays. About six, seven years ago, it started developing as a nonprofit coffee house.”
Open during the fall and spring semesters, the coffee shop doesn’t have pricing on its menu. The concept, Hammell said, is that customers will pay what they can. In turn, all the money donated goes back to missions and general operations.
“We are very nontraditional in every aspect. We have these really nice Fair Trade gourmet drinks that are exchanged either for free or 25 cents or a couple of bucks, whatever people can donate. What we do receive in donations, goes back into programming a community,” Hammell said.
“When we first opened, we tried having suggested donations, which we thought would make it a little bit easier for people, but we set the suggestion too low. I think it was encouraging people to only give a certain amount. This is our third year doing a straight donation, and that works a lot better because people who can’t pay, it makes them not feel guilty, and for people who want to give more, they are sure to do that,” he said.
Hammell has organized mission trips to New Orleans to rebuild houses and Santa Fe, N.M., to do community farm work. In May, eight people went to the Dominican Republic to perform medical and dental clinics.
This is the fifth year the coffee shop has been open. It is fully staffed by university student volunteers.
“There’s almost 30 volunteers. It’s definitely a growing and expanding thing. This semester actually has been pretty exciting. Our numbers have been up about 50 percent from last year,” Hammell said.
All coffee served at Second Wind, 564 Buchanan Ave., is from Mariposa Coffee Roastery in Norman. Hammell said that about 100 customers come in daily to enjoy coffee, putting extra stress on “Gloria,” the house coffee maker.
“It’s somewhat functional, but the last couple of times we’ve taken it in for repairs, it’s been somewhat expensive,” Hammell said. “It’s just more sensible to replace it than to keep putting in thousands of dollars in fixing it.”
A fundraiser for a new “Gloria” will be hosted tonight at Second Wind Coffee House.
Even though Second Wind Coffee House is on Campus Corner, Hammell said the establishment is open to everyone in the community.
“If you come in when we’re open, you’ll see the place packed with students studying or groups meeting. ... Even some classes have met in here before and had some discussions,” Hammell said. “You’ll see different Norman community members meeting here for coffee or a date or catching up with an old friend.
“We have called ourselves, for a long time, The Living Room on Campus Corner. I think that is the vibe when people come here. Some people get stuff to go, but for the most part, people bring things and spend hours here. We encourage that. We want it to be a community space and not just an in-and-out kind of business.”
Hammell admitted that he still would like for Second Wind Coffee to be more known in the Norman community.
“Historically, we’ve done a lot of benefit concerts, but I would like for those to have wider recognition and a wider audience. I would like for the people who are involved in Second Wind to have more opportunities to do local outreach and volunteer service,” he said.
“Right now, we’ve got — for most of our shifts — just one volunteer, which isn’t enough anymore. We need to get where there are at least a couple on each shift. Once we can max out what we are doing at the coffee shop, then we would like to extend our volunteer services other places,” Hammell said.
Hammell hopes Second Wind can be a model that is replicated.
“There is something about the community vibe you get from a coffee shop like this that I don’t think you can really get from anything else,” Hammell said. “Something that is open all the time but is also a volunteer donation establishment where people really can learn and grow together, and you can get a really good diverse group of people.
“What is nice about this is, even though there is a religious aspect to it, for a lot of people who volunteer and participate, they don’t have to do those kinds of things. You can be a melting pot of people who are agnostic, atheist, Baptist, Presbyterian and we can all still build a really good community together.”
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