GRAND RAPIDS — Has Heart, a nonprofit that connects veterans with artists to tell their stories, is building a coffee shop in Veterans Memorial Park.
Plans for The Coffee Shop project were announced today, the 10th anniversary of local U.S. Marine Daane Deboer’s death, which was the catalyst for Navy veteran Michael Hyacinthe and designer Tyler Way forming Has Heart in 2011.
The nonprofit has used the small stone building in Veterans Memorial Park over the years to display art created by veterans during ArtPrize.
Ghafari Associates is the architect for the project, which will include adding square footage to the existing stone building at the park, and transforming it into a new cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. Construction planning has resumed after delays due to COVID-19, and is expected to start this fall.
“It’s got to be a place where everybody can come in, connect with a veteran, and that veteran can share stories,” Hyacinthe said. “My hope is to make it a place where everyone feels heard and feels accepted because that’s the type of person Daane was from my short but very powerful interaction with him but also the stories I hear about him from my wife who was his very close cousin.”
The Coffee Shop by Has Heart will be a cafe and retail shop that employs veterans and their spouses. The venue will also display artwork by veterans and designers, and serve as a space for creative workshops that Has Heart facilitates between veterans and creatives.
Madcap Coffee will be the coffee vendor at the new cafe, and the Grand Rapids Department of Parks and Recreation also collaborated on the project, donating $200,000 to construction costs.
“We’re 50 percent of the way there, we’ll need to raise another $250,000 but we do have funding to start the construction,” Hyacinthe said.
Since the beginning of Has Heart, the goal was to create a coffee shop where creatives and veterans could meet.
Hyacinthe moved to Grand Rapids when he got married, and met Deboer in the process — right before Deboer was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in Afghanistan. Hyacinthe connected with Deboer in the short time they knew each other, and was inspired by ArtPrize to use art to honor the veteran’s life.
“I said there’s got to be an opportunity even in this tragedy where we recognize Daane’s life through the celebration of art,” Hyacinthe said. “I saw how ArtPrize was really an opportunity to celebrate and come together.”
Over the past decade, veterans across the country have partnered with artists through Grand Rapids-based Has Heart. The goal is to bridge the gap between creativity and veterans by letting veterans who have been in combat express their vision to an artist, which has the technical skill to portray it, Hyacinthe said.
“Many wounded veterans act as the voice that is telling the artists, ‘This is my experience,’ and what they envision and the artist helps make that come to life,” Hyacinthe said.
Typically proceeds from the artwork goes back to the veteran, and Has Heart also supports various organizations geared to helping veterans.
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