Coffee shop gives people the opportunity to earn what they need

Nonprofit is putting the 'good' in a good cup of coffee

OCALA, Fla. – Ken and Wendy Kebrdle are this week's Getting Results Award winners.

The Kebrdle family started Wear Gloves Inc. in 2009 to help people in distress earn what they need. The nonprofit employs about 60 people with part-time, needs-based work.  

Step into their signature initiative, Dignity Roasters, and the smell of fresh roasted coffee greets you at the door. 

A roasting machine positioned near the front window spins and churns as fresh green Brazilian beans drop into the hopper.  In about 15 minutes, they'll emerge brown and toasted.

"They love coming in and smelling the fresh coffee," roaster Daniel Dunn said about the customers he serves. "They love the flavor of it and they love the sense of where the money is going, to help the community."

Dunn works at the shop a few times a week. In return, Wear Gloves helps offset some of his medical expenses. 

"I knew nothing about roasting when I started," Dunn said. "They've helped me get back on my feet."

Chairman Ken Kebrdle said he can employ about 30 people a day between the coffee shop and a light manufacturing facility next door. 

"Most of our clients are in a distressed position," Kebrdle said. "We have folks living with family that are trying to make it, we have folks living in halfway houses, folks living in tents, folks living in shelters, living in cars, just all over the board."  

Wear Gloves offers the equivalent of about $10 an hour but no cash ever changes hands.

"We're paying off the needs directly," Kebrdle said. "So directly to the landlord or directly to the state to pay off a felony fine so that somebody can get a drivers license."  

Kebrdle said they have also paid utilities, purchased bikes and given gift cards for groceries. 

"We're aware of the dependency issues that are created in our society so we feel that by allowing somebody to earn what they need it's just a lot better way of loving them instead of it being charity."

The Kebrdle's say they learned a valuable lesson years ago when they sold most of their belongings and traveled the country in an R.V. helping to feed the needy.

"We spent five and a half years on the road, where we were able to immerse ourselves in those cultures and we learned how a lot of the stuff we were doing made people feel and it didn't make them feel good," Kebrdle said. "It's an us and them kind of concept and that's really not very dignified."

The family returned home to Ocala and created the Dignity Center, where people can earn what they need, learn new skills and be equipped to thrive in the workforce.

"It's a better way to love. It's a better way to help somebody move forward," Kebrdle said. "Once you start investing in somebody that's in need, then they start caring."

Kebrdle said former clients have gone on to find steady work in restaurants, landscaping, auto repair and even horse stables.  

Back at the roaster, Dunn is at the controls, adjusting the temperature for a medium roast.

"I'm not the same person I was," he said. "There's a lot of love, a lot of support, great friendships and a great sense of community here."   

Wear Gloves is able to provide sustained support through the subscription sales of ground coffee. If you would like to purchase a bag or a subscription for monthly delivery, please visit  DignityRoasters.com.

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