MEDINA — The cold, arctic wind blew hard across Public Square on Wednesday and Tim Van Arsdale stood ready inside his Cups Cafe to dish out hot soup and coffee to anyone in need.
Cups Cafe, located at 126 N. Court St., is not an official warming center but is offering refuge to those seeking protection from the harshness of an polar vortex laying siege to region.
Yet, when outside temperatures dip to dangerous lows, the relevance of a place where anyone can have a hot meal and welcoming face for free becomes that much more evident.
“I have a heart to serve,” said the 44-year-old Navy veteran who has a bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana Wesleyan University. “I have a heart for youth. That’s the big thing. So many kids are hurting. They are facing all kinds of things.
“There are lot of young people and families in need.”
Van Arsdale said God told him to start the free café in Medina.
After much prayer, he obliged.
That’s the origins of Cups Cafe, which opened its doors in November 2007.
The nonprofit organization has been in existence for 11 years now and originally catered to at-risk youth. It has evolved into a safe haven where anyone in need can come to get free food.
In advance of Wednesday historic low temperatures, Cups Cafe offered a reminder on Facebook of its place in the community and encouraged people to share the message.
“It will be a warm oasis on a bitterly cold day and we’ll serve hot coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea, along with a couple soups,” the message said. “Everything will be free of charge as usual. Our menu will be limited, but we will be here for those in need.”
There’s nothing really like Cups Cafe in Medina County.
Everything they serve comes from donations from individuals, churches and schools.
“By the generosity of the community and God’s grace, we opened in 2007,” Van Arsdale said. “We haven’t looked back.”
Van Arsdale said he receives food donations from Sandridge, Buehler’s, P.J. Marley’s, Cupcake a Day, Circles on the Square and Honey Bee Bakers, to name a few.
They also get leftover food from Medina Schools.
“If little Johnny doesn’t drink his milk, instead of throwing it in the trash, we get it,” he said. “Why throw it away if it wasn’t opened?”
He said the former restaurant and bar serves about 70 people a day, 35 of them youths, and about 1,000 a month. Van Arsdale said many of them are repeat customers.
“Everything is donated and in turn, we give it all away,” he said.
“The food is free to all,” Van Arsdale added. “You don’t have to have a certain income.”
He said the faith-based Cups Caf￩ has about 65 volunteers, who work shifts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. There are also a few referrals from the court system who work at the caf￩ as community service.
People of all ages and nationalities frequent the caf￩, including a few homeless people.
On school days, 30 to 40 students will pile in on their way home mostly from Garfield Elementary Sidney Fenn Elementary, Claggett Middle School and Medina High School. They will eat, play pool or chess and sometimes have food fights.
Just about every day, there will be warm soup, doughnuts, coffee, drinks and fruit.
“You wouldn’t believe how many loaves of bread we use in a day,” Van Arsdale said.
He said his nonprofit also networks with Feeding Medina County and the Salvation Army to make sure the needy is fed on a regular basis.
“We fill in the gaps,” he said. “There’s no reason for people to be hungry in Medina. We work together and try not to duplicate (days we serve food).”
Van Arsdale, a 1993 Medina High School graduate, said Cups Café doesn’t offer any kind of counseling, although he has dreams of adding some future programming.
“The café is our program,” he said. “We’re a café and we do it well.”
Cups Café receives no government funding.
It survives on donations and two major fundraisers every year, including Ride against Hunger, a motorcycle charity ride in July, and its fall reception at Williams on the Lake in October.
He said if people want to get involved, they can donate time or money.
“If you can’t give money or time, you can bake brownies,” Van Arsdale said.
Those interested in donating to Cups can send checks to: Cups Café, P.O. Box 83, Medina, OH 44258. They can also visit www.cupscafe.org or call Van Arsdale at (330) 304-5449.