Cup-A-Joe meetings are gatherings of Veterans who share coffee, conversation, and comradery. They are hosted by the owners of four establishments around Lake County and are supported by Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation.
“We know that social interaction is really important,” said LCVFSF founder and President Paul Baffico. “Veterans really enjoy each other’s company, especially with the isolation most of us are experiencing due to COVID-19. In addition to the social benefits, we share information that can really help someone.”
For example, Waukegan Cup-A-Joe attendee Cindy Gibson-Dyse found out that she might qualify for VA benefits that she once thought she wasn’t eligible for. “Based on what I learned at Cup-A-Joe, I applied and was approved. It’s really made a difference.”
Area Coffee House owner Frank Mahar recalls a similar experience. “We had a new Veteran come one night and meet the rest of the gang. By the time he left, he heard some information that I’d call ‘life-changing’. He now has VA benefits he wasn’t even aware of.”
Both Cindy and Frank describe the Cup-A-Joes as a lot of fun and just like coming home. “We get to continue the brotherhood and sisterhood that we enjoyed while we served,” Cindy said. “Everyone there speaks the same language.”
While COVID-19 sometimes requires Zoom meetings instead of in-person, that means that Veterans from other areas can join in. “We have Vets join us from Florida, Memphis, even the Barbados,” Cindy said.
Each Cup-A-Joe host expressed deep appreciation for the plaques. They agreed that they get back much more than they give. “I’m looking at the plaque and my heart is smiling,” Frank said.
Special recognition goes to CAJ founding member Jon Rylander (pictured with Daisy below) for developing the idea, the recognition, designing the plaques, and seeing them distributed. Thank you very much, Jon.
LCVFSF’s Ron Bruner, (right) presents a plaque thanking Barb and Rich Thomas, owners of “It’s All Good Coffee & Expresso” in Zion. Winthrop Harbor’s Don Williams attended the first Cup meeting there in 2017 and keeps coming back. “It’s a great place to hang out and catch up with other Vets,” Don said.
Cup-A-Joe regular Jon Rylander presents LCVFSF’s plaque to Daisy Perez, owner of Daisy’s Artish Café in Lake Villa. Thank you, Daisy!
LCVFSF’s Dr. Mary Roberson (left) presents a plaque of thanks to Tiffany Peppers, Executive Director of JIC Community Development Corporation, which hosts the Waukegan Cup-A-Joe. Also pictured is Pastor John I. Caples of Jesus Name Apostolic Church. Pastor Caples is a Veteran who is very supportive of Veteran activities held at the JIC Multipurpose Center.
Cup-A-Joe regular Tom Dunn (left) presents LCVFSF’s plaque of thanks to Frank Mahar, owner of the Area Coffee in Mundelein.