Happy Brew Café brews 'poss-abilities' thanks to Flagler's Missing Voices Project

Happy Brew employee with branded apron holding up a cup
June 9, 2023
By Lauren Piskothy
When Flagler College’s Missing Voices Project was founded in 2019, Director Justin Forbes had a vision of empowering communities of faith to become better equipped in welcoming youth on the margins.

“The idea of the Missing Voices Project is that we recognize these young people’s voices are missing in society and in the church, and we want to do something about that,” Associate Director of the Missing Voices Project, Mary Scine said. 

After receiving a $1M grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Missing Voices Project was established and a cohort of 12 congregations from across the state of Florida was formed. Together they all embarked on a learning journey, taking in the theories of asset-based community development (ABCD) along with human centered design thinking and innovation. 

The Missing Voices Project is an integral part of the Youth Ministry Program at Flagler College, a program within the Humanities Department where students can earn an academic minor. In addition to course material, the program focuses on empowering young people through open dialogue, faith-based mentorship, and fostering opportunities for community engagement. 


The motivation for such a project came from the realization that youth ministry tends to exclude certain groups of young people on the margins “for whom God cares deeply.” As one of the 12 cohort churches, Southside United Methodist Church in Jacksonville has found their purpose in serving one such group- youth with intellectual and developmental differences (IDD).  

“We have missed these young people and their voices are missing in our communities of worship,” the mission of the project states. “We have a few ideas about who this might be, but the beauty of this project is that we will help our grant participants discern who has been overlooked in their community, how they can love and serve them, and ultimately be transformed by their presence.”  

In pursuit of this goal, Southside United Methodist Church, created the idea for Happy Brew Café. Happy Brew was founded as a coffee shop established to employ and support young people with intellectual and developmental differences (IDD) and is set to open its doors to the public in the fall. 

The team from Southside United Methodist Church recognized the setbacks those with IDD face once they enter adulthood. “They deserve a place of belonging,’” Scine said. 

Happy Brew’s visionaries realized the best way to empower young people with IDD is to give them a space to be fully integrated into the community.  

“They have abilities and gifts that are able to be used and received by others,” Scine said. 

The team at Southside United Methodist Church wanted to go beyond advocating for the acceptance and inclusion of young people with IDD and move towards a complete embrace of these amazing individuals with all they have to offer their communities. 

“We recognized that individuals with IDD are not only capable of meaningful work, but we believe that their skill sets add immense value to the workplace,” Amy Franks, Director of Happy Brew said. 

Their tagline is: WE BREW POSSABILITIES 

Not only does their tagline work as a clever pun, but it also celebrates what people with all abilities have to offer the community.  

“Our shop aims to be a safe place for community building as well as on-the-job training for young adults with intellectual or developmental differences,” Franks said. 


Their plan was to create a community of joy and acceptance where abilities and friendships can grow one conversation and cup of coffee at a time. Franks said this was made possible all thanks to the support and guidance of Flagler College’s Missing Voices Project. 

“It’s been an incredible journey that began with the Missing Voices Project out of Flagler College,” Franks said.  

When Forbes and Scine launched the Missing Voices Project, Scine said representation was at the core of their mission, both in the community and on their team. 

“If a leadership team was making decisions about a particular community of people, we believed those folks needed to be represented and have a voice at the table,” Scine said. 

With the resources of the Missing Voices Project, Southside United Methodist was able to collect feedback from dozens of young people with IDD and their families to better understand how to make Happy Brew an accessible space.  

“Our best ideas came from them” Franks said.  

Thanks to the feedback Happy Brew has received so far, they have been able to turn their coffee shop into a welcoming space of belonging. Eager to continue learning from the community, Franks encourages others to submit their ideas to Happy Brew’s website

Having consulted with families, Franks said they included things like a no-step entry with wide automatic doors, tables that can adjust to wheelchair heights, braille signage, a sensory room, ample wheelchair accessible parking, as well as bathrooms that will accommodate wheelchair radius and height with automatic doors and adult-sized changing tables.  

“Happy Brew architects created a facility that exceeds ADA standards to accommodate both physical and sensory impairments for both employees and customers,” Franks said. 

Happy Brew has also left a huge mark on the volunteers who have been involved in the project. Volunteers like Henry Cosper, a tenth grader at Wolfson High School. 

“The Missing Voices Project really opened my mind to all the underlying problems occurring around us every day,” Cosper said. “From my church involvement alongside children and adults with IDD, I was pushed out of my comfort zone a little to reach those voices and help bring awareness. The Missing Voices Project has not only made an impact in my life but those all around me.” 

First-year student at Liberty University Lucy Glover shares a similarly impactful experience after volunteering at Happy Brew. 

“Through the Missing Voices Project, the Lord showed me how essential it is for students with IDD to have a voice in the church,” Glover said. “When I worked one on one with these students, they taught me how to better love people unapologetically. I know that without them, the church would be missing some powerful and beautiful stories.” 

Happy Brew invites customers to visit them when their doors open in the fall of 2023.  

As for the Missing Voices Project, Happy Brew is just the beginning of what they aim to offer the community.  

“We were invited to write a follow-up grant to continue to receive funding from the Lilly Endowment,” Scine said. “We wrote a proposal for a 1.25 million grant, and we were awarded funding at the end of 2022 to continue this work for the next three years from January 2023 through December 2025.” 

Next in their efforts, is the beginning of the Missing Voices 2.0 launch, where their goal is to deepen the work by creating scalable resources from what they learned in hopes of serving additional communities of faith.  

The Missing Voices Project aims to continue their research, listening to and learning from young people on the margins, finding ways to create safer, more accessible communities of faith for everyone.