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Oklahoma Christian student partnered to open Not Your Average Joe in food desert

An Oklahoma Christian University student who is on the leadership team for Not Your Average Joe partnered with Executive Director Tim Herbel and his team to open a fourth location for the coffee chain at the new Homeland Grocery on Sept. 1, 2021.

Isabella Rapps, a senior public communications and leadership student, helped found Not Your Average Joe as a freshman at Oklahoma Christian. Rapps said her involvement with the project began when Executive Director Tim Herbel, an Oklahoma Christian alumnus, offered her an internship with his company, Compadres Coffee Roasters. However, their vision extended into helping the community with more than just coffee.

Not Your Average Joe employs adults with a range of disabilities, specifically intellectual and developmental disabilities. Rapps said the project helps not only those they hire, but also those in the community.

“I don’t think people realize how people with disabilities are often outcast, or invisible, or in any type of disabilities, even if that’s an invisible disability,” Rapps said. “It’s really hard because they need a lot more help than you realize.”

Not Your Average Joe opened their first location in Midtown, Oklahoma City in 2018. They were later asked to open a location in Norman near the Oklahoma State University campus. Eventually, Homeland Grocery contacted them about a new opportunity.

According to Rapps, the Homeland Grocery stores appreciated the mission of Not Your Average Joe and asked to host several of their stores within Homeland Grocery locations. The coffee chain opened their first store inside the Homeland located off North May Avenue.

However, the newest location of Homeland Grocery is special; it is located in a food desert. There has not been a grocery store for miles in that area.

Gary Jones, Oklahoma Christian’s assistant dean of students, was involved in the Homeland location in multiple ways. He attended the Eastside Church of Christ four blocks away from the store, and currently he is a board member for Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations tried to help the community before the store was opened.

“Obviously it’s not just the fact that it’s a grocery store in Northeast Oklahoma City,” Jones said. “I think the grocery store, the entire project, is very intentional: the location, the accessibility, a huge focus on the community – each aisle is named after a community or a hero or leader in that community.”

Jones said in addition to Not Your Average Joe, Leo’s Barbeque would also have a location within Homeland. Jones said this was a boon for the business which previously was a staple for the eastside of Oklahoma City.

“It’s going to be able to save that business, but then also it’s one of those places that everybody just gravitates towards,” Jones said.

Jones also said Homeland is helping the community with a new program called the Double Up program. Jones said Councilperson Nikki Nice was adamant that fresh food and vegetables be a part of the grocery store.

“They will bring in tomatoes, onions, and okra grown by local black farmers,” Jones said.

The Double Up program gives a dollar coupon for fresh produce whenever someone on Snap Benefits spends a dollar on other groceries.

“I think it’s probably one of the biggest things that made my heart smile about that program,” Jones said. “They’ve taken away people who are in a low-socioeconomic situation having to choose between making my limited money stretch and being able to eat healthy.”

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