You never know where someone has been or what someone’s been through before meeting them,” said Peter Thomas, the brains behind this initiative.
Peter Thomas owns a quaint little cafe in a suburban Chicago train station, which at first sight looks like any other regular coffee shop, but Pilot Pete’s Coffee & Treats does more than just serve coffee. Thomas, aka Pilot Pete has repurposed an old, 26-foot truck into a pop-up “Coffee with a Purpose” coat store in Elmhurst, reports The Independent Newspapers. It is an annual community initiative where coats and other basic necessities are collected and then distributed among the homeless people in the area so that they have something to protect them from the harsh winters of Chicago.
For Thomas, the idea sprung upon him when he was trying to look at giving back to the community while getting others involved at the same time. ABC7 Chicago quoted his mom saying that Thomas's compassion for others has been evident since he was a young boy. “Ever since he was a little [boy] he always would find the outsiders and pull them in to make them feel welcome."
For this year's Annual Coat Drive, Thomas managed to make a total of six stops throughout greater Chicago, where, according to Good News Network, the coffee shop owner invited people up to “shop” for whatever they needed at each stop, without having to pay for anything at all. This is the seventh consecutive year they've been doing this.
In addition to coats, the truck also came stocked with blankets, socks, hats, gloves, scarves, and personal hygiene items for the homeless to pick and choose from. Thomas and his crew also brewed up 40 gallons of coffee for the occasion. Rough Edges Confectionery provided baked goods for the drive, while Good Move Movers provided Pete's with the truck and a driver. The custom truck signage was the handiwork of Angel Fancy Design Studio. It's simply wonderful to see the whole community get together for a good cause, isn't it?
Thomas notes that there were more people in need than ever this time around, especially due to the effects COVID has had on the society. “[When]we made this effort, all the shelters were on lockdown,” he said in an interview with the Elmhurst Independent. “No one was allowed in or out, that is, once you’re out, you can’t get back in, so there are more and more homeless people… This is a good year to be extra giving.”
For Thomas and the others who volunteer with him, this is not just about merely handing out warm clothing and coffee. It gives them genuine satisfaction to talk and interact with a group of people who are, in most cases, considered invisible. Thomas added that making donations one-on-one makes it feel more genuine.
“You never know where someone has been or what someone’s been through before meeting them,” he told the Independent. “With the homeless, we treat everyone the same or equal.”
Thomas sees coffee as the perfect metaphor to inspire positive action. “I love working with coffee as a tool of motivation to fuel and ignite people to soar beyond their expectations and to soar beyond society’s expectations,” he said. “I’m fueling them and caffeinating them to do something better… something that will make them feel good about themselves so we can all grow together as one coffee family and fly beyond greatness.”
The news of their goodwill comes at a time where plans for a new Elmhurst Metra station are in the works, which means that Pilot Pete’s Coffee & Treats might not be a part of the new and renovated station. However, a petition to keep them put has been started with almost 2,000 people signing it. If you'd like to help Thomas and his selfless cause, click here to sign the petition.
Cover Image Source: Instagram/Pilot Pete's Coffee