Shirley Arendt held an oversized tray of coffee, hot chocolate and homemade cookies at a Southeast Como bus stop on Wednesday.
Arendt, a secretary at Southeast Christian Church, knows many students miss out on breakfast while rushing to class each morning. Three years ago, she decided to help ease students’ morning commute.
Every Wednesday, Arendt stands at a bus stop on the corner of Como Avenue Southeast and 15th Avenue Southeast to hand out cookies and beverages to students. “We just wanted to show love to our neighborhood. You [students] are standing down here waiting for the bus, and it’s cold," she said.
Arendt coordinates an effort in her church to provide students, community members and even bus drivers with a free “cup of hot” in the morning. The early-morning venture is now entering its fourth year.
“That first year we had really bitter cold weather, and it was like, ‘okay, are we serious about this or not?’” Arendt said.
The church hands out roughly 90 free beverages each Wednesday.
Printed on the side of the coffee and hot chocolate cups is information about “The Depot” — a Tuesday through Thursday study space that the church hopes to expand.
“It’s an open space in the evenings … and designed to be a safe place,” said Lorrie Saito, a church volunteer. “[It's] very safe, and very quiet.”
Saito is one of four volunteers who prepare hot chocolate, coffee cups and pack homemade cookies inside the church. Most of the cookies are donated from the community and congregation, she said.
Southeast Christian Church also takes part in other community efforts, like a National Night Out block party in the Como area. The event brings together local law enforcement and community residents.
Like Arendt, Sue Nelson has volunteered to hand out coffee and cookies since the church started the effort.
“It’s good for people to know our church likes to help,” Nelson said.
Nelson said many Como residents are unaware of the church’s existence. She said the effort provides “good marketing” for the church.
The cookie and beverage handouts have been well-received by some University of Minnesota students and community members.
“I think it’s pretty cool, especially with a lot of the cold weather we’ve been having,” said junior Riley Fay. “It’s something I almost forget about, but every Wednesday I have the same exact class in the morning … and they’re out there with cocoa, coffee and snack-holders. I don’t think I could even do that.”