Theirs is the first coffee house venture by the Cleveland corps of The Salvation Army.

First coffee house venture of The Salvation Army

Joel and Cheryl Rogers are home.

They were not always Clevelanders. Joel, having grown up in Franklin, N.C., moved to Cleveland in 2004 to attend Lee University, and Cheryl grew up in Silva, N.C., some 20 minutes from Joel. However, over the last 14 years this hardworking couple has become firmly entrenched within the community, adopting the needs of Cleveland as their own.

“I remember the first time we were headed back here (Cleveland), and she said ‘I’m excited to come back home,” Joel said of Cheryl. “That was 14 years ago now.”

Joel is the kind of person that goes in for an interview and gets turned away from the position he is applying for (which he did) only to have a position essentially created for him (which it was).

“We met with Ruthie Forgey to see ‘What we could do for young people in Cleveland.’”

Cheryl later joined Salvation Army as a general assistant, doing odds and ends until the idea of Inman Coffee could be realized.

Joel currently serves as the director of Christian Education, overseeing the programs for youth and young adults for Salvation Army, and Cheryl serves as the general manager of, and is very much the driving force behind, the day-to-day inner workings of the Salvation Army’s pilot coffee shop, Inman Coffee (formerly known as Inman Street Coffeehouse). These two entities, Salvation Army and Inman Coffee, and these two people, work together in concert to provide a service to those in need in Cleveland.

The coffee shop is entering its eighth year, has hosted over 500 shows with local artists and serves approximately 4,000 college students a month. Inman Coffee is the first of its kind, a sort of “pilot shop,” that Salvation Army has entrusted to the Rogerses. The coffee shop is a focal point for a multitude of Salvation Army events serving as a positive environment for all. And the idea for the business sprang from the imaginations and hearts of Joel and Cheryl, based on similar experiences from their birthplaces.

“We have 15 states in the Southern territory of Salvation Army, and the coffeehouse was the first to open, and just to see the fruitfulness of that ministry has been an amazing thing to watch,” said Ruthie Forgey administrator for Salvation Army. “I think it has exceeded even Cheryl and Joel’s expectations.”

On might say it speaks volumes about the couple that when asked about resumes for information about past work, neither of them had bothered to update their resume since joining The Salvation Army. They are dedicated to the Cleveland community and to their employer.

“Cheryl and Joel have a heart for others,” said Forgey. “This is not a job for them; it’s a way of life.”

To the couple, Inman Coffee is more than a business that they founded; it’s a way to reach into the community and into the hearts of those in need.

When asked what is most rewarding about working with The Salvation Army and Inman Coffee, Cheryl said, “seeing those stories come full circle. We may not have had a hand on the whole situation, but everybody in the building plays a part in people’s stories and their journey.”

When one meets the pair, you “could expect hugs and smiles,” said Megan Wimpelberg, a barista at Inman Coffee and a leader in the Salvation Army Youth Program. “They are very intentional in getting to know you when meeting you for the first time.”

For Joel, working with students from younger ages — 12, 13 and 14 years old — through ups and downs, highs and lows and seeing them come into their own and step up and be leaders and earn a position at Salvation Army/Inman (when there’s an opening) is most rewarding.

Cheryl was inspired early on by her dad, Darrell Woodard, who is very involved in his own community. “He was the chief of the volunteer fire department; he would mow people’s yards; he would bring them food from the garden … whatever the need that he knew of in the community, he wanted to meet it,” Cheryl said. “It really did set the tone for later in life for me.”

When asked about his inspiration for helping others, Joel cited his family’s holiday and family gatherings. “Whenever we had meals, I can’t remember a family holiday gathering where there weren’t non-family members at our table,” Joel said. “We called it ‘picking up strays.’”

The two currently attend church in the same Salvation Army location that Inman Coffee resides in. There is a Sunday breakfast that is open to the public and currently serves about 120-150 people, with Sunday school and worship following. Youth and Young Adults, as well as a kids congregation, meet on Mondays for a meal/service, and Thursday is an adult Bible study. The Coffee Shop is closed on Mondays to facilitate these events.

In the midst of the whirlwind that is The Salvation Army and Inman Coffee, the couple made time to raise a daughter, Eden, who will be 6 in March and has been a member, at least honorarily, of the Inman Coffee staff since she was 2 days old.

When he finds free time, Joel enjoys running, reading and his beloved Atlanta Braves. He proclaimed his love for them as he lifted his canvas shoes covered in tiny Atlanta Braves “A” logos to the table.

Cheryl enjoys cooking and baking. She actually majored in culinary arts for a time before switching to business. She has a side catering business, Cheryl Mae Catering and Confections, which has catered a ladies Christmas breakfast for the past 2 years, catered school luncheons and created specialty cakes and cupcakes for weddings. She is also currently teaching a crockpot cooking class, for 16 people, which is funded by a grant specifically for that purpose.

“I used to hate baking,” Cheryl said. “The only reason I stayed in the kitchen was so that ‘Mamaw’ would give me the bowl with the batter in it.”

It’s interests, and people like the Rogerses, that end up being a boon during times like the 2011 tornado outbreak, in which Cheryl and Joel’s kitchen, along with several mobile kitchens, produced 10,000 meals in one day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.