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100 Days, 100 Voices

Some are ‘Paying it Forward’ With Coffee and Prayers in Kentucky Coffee Shops



I’m not very good at running the register because I give basically everything away. — Joe Farmer of Axis Coffee Shop and Gathering Place in Manchester, Kentucky

The crew on duty at the Axis Coffee House and Gathering Place. They’re all volunteers. Left to right:  David Tess Lipps, Jozie Roxanna Brock, Charlotte Marcum, George Saylor, Ashton Farmer, Tracy Farmer and Joe Farmer.

Tracy Farmer: We saw the need in our church to expand. We needed room for children’s ministry and youth ministry, but we also wanted to give the community — a place that they could bring people together — they could gather and have meetings and just meet for coffee and have a place to be proud of in the community. We saw a need and there wasn’t anything like this around.

Joe Farmer: We call this place the Axis because everything here revolves around Christ. We’re more than just a coffee shop.

Tracy Farmer: It is under the umbrella of our church. Anything we do we make it a community ministry. We don’t try to keep it just in one church. This is under the umbrella of one church, but we invite everybody to come.

Joe Farmer: It’s better together. And you can accomplish more together. It’s easy to buy into stereotypes especially in the area we live in, especially if they have a template and they just check off the boxes. The New York Times did a story and said Manchester was the worst place to live in America. I just took it as a challenge. I look around and out and it’s easy to find problems, it’s easy for people to identify the problems and say ‘somebody should fix that.’

But it takes someone to look at it and someone to do something about it. I’m somebody. You’re somebody. So who are these people that are supposed to do something? Well, it’s us. We can either make a difference or we can make an excuse. It’s really up to us. So I’ve chosen I want my life to count. I don’t want to come at the end of my life and look back and think, ‘What did I do with my life?’ So that’s what we did here.  We created this business — it’s all volunteer based. They give their time here and everything we make above and beyond the cost of operation we give way.

We’re given money to our softball team that made the World Series. We’ve given money to Tanzania to help people that are affected in the drought and famine. Now we’re sponsoring a soccer team in the slums of Soweto. We give to domestic violence shelters. Just whatever the need is. Mainly things that involve children.

We started with coffee and muffins, things like that. A few months later we offered food and people just went crazy over our food. We don’t understand it — it’s just some thing God’s doing. There’s nothing fancy. It’s rather ordinary, but it’s just bliss. Things just taste better here. I think atmosphere has a lot to do with that. We love on people regardless of who they are. We hug them. We pray with them. We just try to make their day better.

The first day we opened our best seller was the ‘Pay it Forward’ board. Anybody that wants to buy somebody something — a drink or a food item — you can write it on the card. People might say a, ‘single mom’ or a ‘firefighter’ or something like that. We pin it on the board. So you can come and look on the board and if you find something that pertains to you take it and use it. I thought of that. It was just something I wanted to do. That’s kind of what we’re all about — making people’s lives better in their day. We make it so hard, but it’s not. It’s as simple as hugging somebody, telling them they matter, giving somebody a free drink.

Tracy and Joe Farmer run the Axis Coffee Shop and Gathering Place in Manchester, Kentucky. Their work, like those of others, is volunteer. Both also have full-time jobs. The coffee shop is owned by Manchester Gospel Mission, but volunteers and patrons come from many churches.

A latte with a cinnamon smile, a grilled peanut butter banana sandwich and white chicken chili at Axis. The chili is the most popular item according to Joe Farmer.

The “Pay It Forward” board at the Axis Coffee Shop and Gathering Place in Manchester, Kentucky. Patrons purchase gift cards, place them on the board and if a card applies to you, then you can use it. Some of the gifts are specific to named people, others are general descriptions such as “any first responder” or “any pre-school teacher.” All three of these coffee shops featured have a “pay it forward” board.

Visitors listen as Sissy Rutherford tells the history of the lamp house and the coffee shop that takes its name.

Sissy Rutherford: It’s a different business plan. It’s God’s business and not ours. We don’t have to make a profit all day long. The coffee shop is a ministry first and then it’s a coffee shop.

We took that perspective from the day we opened the doors. Three days in, a lady came in and asked me to pray with her. She was looking for a job and we told her we didn’t have anything to offer at that point. She said we are going to hear a lot of things about her and she said, ‘every one of them are true. I was a drug addict. I’ve been in prison, every bit of it’s true, but I’m trying to turn my life around. Will you pray with me?’ So we stopped and prayed right then and there. Now from that point on we said if there’s a reason to pray you don’t let them leave without a little prayer. I remember one time chasing a lady down the road thinking, ‘I forget to pray with her.’

It really has truly become a house of prayer here. We’ve been able to say the prayers and the prayers that have been said for us. God has provided such wonderful employees. It’s an opportunity to teach some of the younger ladies and men in this community that have never worked how to work. Then they move away. And they can get another job. And we’ve got some pretty good success stories.

Sissy Rutherford and her husband Eric manage the Lamp House Coffee Shop in Lynch, Kentucky.


Sissy and Eric Rutherford had been running a pizzeria in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina before they moved to Lynch, Kentucky to run the Lamp House Coffee Shop. The shop, part of Meridzo Center Ministries opened in 2014, was once part of the mining operation owned by U.S. Steel.

Visitors to the Lamp House Coffee Shop laid hands on Eric Rutherford and prayed for him before he went to see the doctor about his back problems.

Darla Heflin runs the Living Stone Creamery & Coffee in Harlan, Kentucky.

Darla Heflin: I had been praying every day. I would take my list and I would go out into the backyard and I would make my declarations out loud. So I would say, every day, ‘Living Stone ministries will be given to me.’ So, I changed the name. The name used to be ‘Tasty Time Frozen Yogurt.’

I had written that down years ago. I really had no idea what that looked like. I knew in some way or form or fashion it would be a business. I just didn’t know it would be coffee. I don’t even drink coffee.

Our church is knows for our mission outreach. We get a lot of phone calls for just basic needs, the water bill paid, electric bill paid, a food box. We’ve always done that and the shop was given to us by a local business owner who called me one morning at home and just asked me if I would want to receive it as a donation. So my brother is a pastor. So, I asked him. Do you want a coffee shop? We took over in 30 days.

I love to pray for the sick. And I have had that opportunity to pray for a lot of people who may never come to a church. They may never come to my church. I believe in the Scripture, I believe in Christ teaching that we lay hands on the sick. So, I’ve had the opportunity to pray and I’ve had a lot of healing testimony.

Another man, he came in and he said, ‘Are you all Christians here? And I said, ‘Yeah we are.’ He’s an older man, and he said, ‘Well, I came in here for a prayer. He said he got a bad report from the doctor, and his daughter told him to come in here. He comes in and we pray for him. He comes back. And my mom is working that day for me and he sings her a song and he said he got a clean bill of health from his follow-up doctor’s appointment.

And that’s what I love to do. A lady come in the other day. She’s talking and she says she’s been sick and they don’t know what it is. That’s an opportunity and I say, ‘Well, can I pray for you?’ And, it being Harlan, a smaller town, most people are open to that. So, I got to pray for her. I’ve not heard back from her yet, but I expect that I will.

Darla Heflin, 40, runs Living Stone Creamery and Coffee in Harlan, Kentucky. The walls carry chalk written scripture, and the furniture is made of used pallets. Her church of about 200 members, New Covenant Cawood of the Church of God has owned the shop since October of 2016. Most work is volunteer, but occasionally they can pay workers. All the proceeds are used for mission work.

In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. If you have an idea for ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ please contact Nancy Andrews on Twitter @NancyAndrews or email at nancy.andrews [at] Follow her on Instagram @NancyAndrews.

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'Islam in Appalachia'

“Appalachian American Arab Muslim” Malak Khader



“To be an Appalachian American Arab Muslim … that’s a big title. I feel like I’m wearing so many hats at the same time.” Malak Khader of Huntington, West Virginia finds herself constantly fighting stereotypes about her religion and her home state. She started a multiethnic Girl Scout Troop at the Muslim Association of Huntington mosque. “The Girl Scout values align with Islamic values. It teaches you to build your character, it teaches you community service, it teaches you to educate people and be educated yourself.”

Malak’s full interview is part of our 360° video series Muslim in Appalachia. This series enables viewers to step into the worlds of Appalachian Muslims to experience what it means to navigate Muslim and Appalachian identity while challenging stereotypes of both.







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100 Days, 100 Voices

‘He’s a Mini Version of my Dad’



Jakari Tinsley, age 2, lives in Lynch, Kentucky. His favorite word is "No." Photo by Nancy Andrews

“I hope he becomes a God-serving young man, that he loves everybody as God loves us.”

Jakari’s favorite food is chicken nuggets. His favorite word is “No.” He likes to play basketball with his mini-basketball hoop and watch “Blaze and the Monster Machines” and “PAW Patrol.”

At age 2, and living in Lynch, Kentucky, Jakari Tinsley has his life in front of him. “I hope he grows up and goes to college and gets an education. Whatever he wants to do I will follow him and support him,” his mother said.

Jakari is wearing his grandfather’s hat. “He thinks he’s a mini version of my dad,” said Jakari’s mom, Marisha Tinsley. “Whatever dad does, he has to do too.”

“I hope he becomes a God-serving young man, that he loves everybody as God loves us,” his grandfather Terry Tinsley said, “that he get in a profession that helps others, like a doctor or lawyer.”

Lynch was founded in 1917 as a U.S. Steel mining operation. At its peak it was home to more than 10,000 people, but now in 2017 less than 700 live within its borders.

In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Nancy Andrews at She’s on Twitter @NancyAndrews and on Instagram @NancyAndrews


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100 Days, 100 Voices

‘We’re People – We’re Just Wired a Little Different.’



The weekend of July 29, 2017 brought the first gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer festival to Wheeling, West Virginia with several hundred attending the Ohio Valley Pride. We talked to some of the attendees about why they came to the event:

“Today, I was around people like me. I could be me.” – Andrea Potter

“We’re here to celebrate,” Katreina Kilgore explained her support of her daughter Andrea Potter. “We’re here to celebrate that she didn’t hold back, that she is going to be herself.”

The family lives in Moundsville, West Virginia.  “We struggle,” she said of the entire family’s acceptance, “that’s why I think I am so proud of her.”

Melinda Tober, left, of Windsor Heights, West Virginia came to Pride with Kael Thomas, and Chelsea Camcho of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“No body wants to live in the closet and I think that they shouldn’t have to.” – Melinda Tober

“I’ve been out and proud since 2010,” said Tober. “It’s always looked down upon — so hush, hush, “ she said, explaining that she believes the event such as this help to increase awareness and reduce hate crimes.

Hailee Parker, lives in Williamstown, West Virginia and grew up in Wheeling. She came to the event with her sister, Brittin Orum who lives in Wheeling. Parker performs as “Donte Dickles”.

“We’re people – we’re just wired a little different.” – Hailee Parker

“To be part of it. To walk around the streets in drag and part of the first pride – to just be home for the first time in a long time, “ Parker said. “This is my home. We both grew up here… I feel we have come very far. There are still nicks in the road, and it’s not the end of us fighting for equality… It upsetting to meet a person who is not supportive. All you can do is hold your head high and just leave it at that – with respect… Be yourself, love yourself. Hold your head high and forget what other people think of you.”

Miranda Thompson with daughter Ava Thompson, Terri Laquaglia, with daughter Regan Laquaglia and Maddie Crum attended the first Ohio Valley Pride together.

“Some people don’t understand that we all have to be equal so the world can be at peace.” – Regan Laquaglia

“We care about people and we know that no matter what that person thinks about us – underneath all their hatefulness there could be a good person. ” – Ava Thompson.

Landen Menough, of Martin’s Ferry, Ohio (stage name Miss Rilee Rae Michaels) was emcee of the event.

“If you leave here with one thing today, leave knowing that you are all family to me. You pick your own family and your family are the ones that accept you to no bounds of the earth.”— Landen Menough’s message to the crowd.

Andrew Vargo has lived in Wheeling, West Virginia all his life.

“There’s strength in numbers. We share love and companionship. We might not all get along, but we all share the same view of our rights… I see a ton of smiles, people from all sorts of places.” — Andrew Vargo

Jordan Sewell, aka “Xenus”, performs for the crowd at Heritage Port. 

“It takes guts to come out here in public in drag.” – Jordan Sewell

“Worrying about how to live day to day, being who you are and how you should show who you are — it’s hard,” explained Sewell. Today, “ it feels amazing, a feeling of completeness… I feel like I am now, a little bit – no, a lot more comfortable being who I want to be rather than what others want me to be. It takes guts to come out here in public in drag. Just doing it for the first time – walking out in pubic – outside,” was new. “Never outside, behind closed doors, yes.”

Jordan Sewell, with his mother, Rauslynn Platt as she films the performances. They live in Bridgeport, Ohio.

“I am not gonna hide I was heartbroken, but he’s my son – and my daughter. I’ll support whatever he wants to do in life. He seems so free. He’s so happy and that’s what I want to him to be, happy.” – Rauslynn Platt, Sewell’s mother

In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Nancy Andrews at She’s on Twitter @NancyAndrews and on Instagram @NancyAndrews

Editor’s Note: This article has been revised to correctly reflect that Jordan Sewell lives in Bridgeport, Ohio.

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