Calvin Fletcher’s tips now fund a true Foundation

Since the coffee house opened as a not-for-profit in 2009, all tips have gone to other not-for-profit organizations, a process being more formalized by the Foundation.

Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Co. became an instant Fletcher Place landmark when it opened in September 2009, a status which was only magnified when it moved into doubled space at 647 Virginia Ave. almost three years later.

But Calvin Fletcher’s comfortable ambiance was not the only reason the coffee house became the focal point of the neighborhood. Founder Doug Litsey, who had spent 25 years in the ministry, teamed with his artist son, Jeff, to establish the enterprise as a not-for-profit. But the duo, along with Doug’s wife, Judy, wanted to do more.

“Very quickly after opening, Calvin Fletcher’s customers began to feel like our family members, and the sense of community grew,” Doug remembered. “But how could the shop give back to our community and the greater Indianapolis area – especially when, at the time, we had no profits to share? What we did have – just like other coffee shops – was a tip cup/jar. Why not give our tips to deserving not-for-profits in the area? Customers generously responded to the idea.

“Over the years,” Doug Litsey continued, “we have seen many benefits come from our tip cup. Multiple not-for-profit groups have received a boost in the work they do. Customers have become more aware of the charitable organizations serving around them and have found a convenient and easy way to contribute. And our family has been overwhelmed by the number of groups and individuals who are compassionately striving to make Indianapolis and the surrounding area a better place to live.”

Judy, Doug and Jeff Litsey.

For years, Doug handled the appropriations, deciding which worthy organization would be the “beneficiary of the month.” With monthly tips ranging in the $1,000 to $1,500 range, Litsey picked smaller not-for-profits where the impact might be greater. Organizations with budgets topping $1 million weren’t considered.

Last fall, the Litseys decided it was time to formalize the effort in a more organized way. Hence, the Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company Charitable Foundation was created. A Board of Directors was formed, with Judy Litsey as president and Julia Phoebus Huckaba as secretary and Amy Crook as treasurer. Other Board members are Lisa Marchal, Adam Pederson and Larry Peffer.

Judy Litsey said that while the tip fund’s past accomplishments are satisfying, “We feel like we can do more. There are so many needs.” She said the 501(c)3 status will expand their ability to fund-raise, including the ability to seek matching grants. That step has already happened, less formally, when Simplify Real Estate offered to match the first $750 of one month’s tips – a pledge which raised that month’s total from $1,200 to $1,950.

Beneficiaries of the monthly tips were, in 2018 for example, the Business Ownership Initiative, Trusted Mentors, Indy Hub and the Indy Hub Foundation, Grace on Wings, Indy Parks Foundation, SAFY of Indianapolis, Gleaners, Pink Ribbon Connection, and Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

In 2018, generous coffee patrons donated nearly $11,000 to 10 local charities. In 2017, that figure was nearly $12,000 across 10 local charities.

In addition to continuing to use the shop’s tip cup, funneling monies to the Foundation, it will:

  • Provide an avenue for online giving.
  • Encourage matching funds from other local businesses that would like to partner in supporting one or more of the grant recipients.
  • Encourage donors to use matching funds from their place of employment.
  • Provide multiple channels to inform donors of charitable, non-profit organizations supported by the foundation.
  • Provide donors with contribution receipts for gifts of $200 or more for tax purposes.

Jeri Warner, founder and executive director of Trusted Partners, said funds received from the Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Shop have supported the organization’s efforts to mentor at-risk adults to help more people stay housed and out of prison. “One of the best parts of receiving the donations,” she added, “is that we know it comes from many people giving a little to help organizations that make a difference.”

Formal event on April 25
Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Co. Charitable Foundation will get a formal kick-off on Thursday, April 25, at the Virginia Avenue coffee house. Foundation President Judy Litsey said the evening will be “an opportunity to connect with our neighbors, near and far.”
The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m. and feature special presentations and guest speakers. Light refreshments will be provided.
o For more information, including eligibility guidelines to apply for grants, go to cfcoffeecompany. com.