Wanderlust Kaffee was opened to provide jobs and support the Jennifer house women’s transitional home here in Sierra Vista. All profits go to the Jennifer house!
Jennifer was an amazing woman that dedicated her life to endless community services and volunteering events. She had a huge heart and offered to help any stranger that came across her path that was in need.
She risked everything to get out of an abusive relationship, losing her home, her daughter, her hope, but survived and started over best she could. She was diagnosed with CANCER and lost her battle but kept her head up and instilled her values and morals in us, leaving her legacy into what is now the “Jennifer House women’s transitional home”.
It was 16 years ago that Danielle Sheppard opened Huachuca Shuttle.
The popular business, which serves all of Cochise County by providing residents with rides to different destinations, travels as far as Tucson International Airport, and has grown to 20 units since it started in 2002.
While most people in Sierra Vista know about the shuttle service, very few are aware of Sheppard’s newest business venture, Wanderlust Kaffee. It’s a coffee shop she opened about four months ago. She established it as a nonprofit to help women in transition.
Sheppard has firsthand experience with women who are struggling to turn their lives around.
Two years ago, she founded Jennifer House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The shelter is for women who are going through drug recovery and for those recently released from incarceration.
“We work with the courts and help these women by providing them with a place to live while they find work and get their lives back on track,” Sheppard said.
The Jennifer House holds seven people. Some of the women have young children they bring into the transitional home with them. Women can stay at the shelter one year while they search for work, find a place to live, and get re-established in the community. They are drug-tested periodically during their stay, and must remain clean to live there, Sheppard said.
Because it’s difficult for women with criminal records to find jobs, Sheppard started Wanderlust to give them an opportunity to work at the coffee shop.
One hundred percent of the profit from the business goes to Jennifer House in support of the women who live there. A percentage of the proceeds from Huachuca Shuttle also go to the shelter, Sheppard said.
The coffee shop occupies one of five suites in a building that Sheppard and her husband purchased at 84 S. Second St., in Sierra Vista. Three of the suites are occupied by Sheppard for Huachuca Shuttle and her nonprofit ventures, while the other two are leased to other business owners.
Along with Huachuca Shuttle and Wanderlust, Sheppard also established Cinderella’s Closet, a charitable project that provides donated clothing to women and men who need appropriate attire for job interviews.
“We take clothing donations, store them here, and give them to people who need them,” Sheppard said. “We also have beautiful formal wear that we loan out to women who have functions they want to attend, but don’t have the means to purchase expensive gowns for the events.” Teen girls also benefit from Cinderella’s Closet. Formal wear is loaned to high school girls for proms, homecomings and other events that require evening gowns. To complete the look, such accessories as jewelry, shoes and purses are also available. Women who are residents at the Jennifer House go through the donations, sort them, and get them ready for distribution. Between support provided through the shelter and the coffee shop, Sheppard has seen some remarkable successes.
“Not all of the women who work here came through Jennifer House,” she said. “One of my employees is a young woman who was struggling to find work. She drives here from St. David, and is a wonderful employee.”
And the feeling is mutual.
“Danielle (Sheppard) is the most incredible person I’ve ever worked for,” said Meredith Bitner, the 23-year-old woman that Sheppard spoke of. “I was working in Tombstone when I lost my job. I applied everywhere for work, even Tucson, and couldn’t find anything.
“I had gone four months without working until I saw an opening at this coffee shop on Facebook.”
Bitner applied for the job and was hired. She works the morning shift, which means she is at work at 6 a.m., four days a week. After four months, she was made assistant manager.
“I’ve never held any kind of management position before, so this is really exciting for me,” she said. “I love my job, and Danielle is awesome to work for.”
Sheppard’s daughter, Jasmine Acfalle, graduated from the University of Arizona in May 2017 with degrees in biochemistry and German. She helps out at the coffee shop and the other family businesses while studying to get into medical school.
“I’m amazed by what my mom has accomplished with the women and girls she helps,” Acfalle said. “When you meet these girls, hear their stories, and see the positive impact this has had on their lives, it’s incredible. It’s wonderful to see how excited they are about wanting to change their lives and be successful.
“I’m very proud of what my mom is doing to help these women. This work is her passion.”
Source: Sierra Vista Herald