PCA’s Tanglewood Coffee House Celebrates Fourth Year on Campus
On a normal, pre-COVID school morning, PCA’s Tanglewood Coffee House would be bustling with students and teachers alike, sitting together on the couches or at the tables, enjoying a comforting cup of coffee, going over homework together, or catching up on sleep before classes began that morning.
Watching the laughing students, standing behind the wooden countertop with an empty coffee cup in one hand, stands Mary Greer, the coffee shop’s founder and manager. She smiles. “I want to meet students where they already gather and be a positive influence on them,” she said. And since 2017, she has been doing just that. Greer posted in a recent social media acknowledgment of the coffee house’s birthday last month, “I found my calling as a joy giver, and I’m blessed to live it out each day in my job. I share joy with each cup of coffee. I love it when staff members want a cup of coffee during the day so that I can share joy with them. I love that in a time of uncertainty, I get to provide students with the familiar joys of snack time.”
In college, Greer registered for a church planting course and had the opportunity to read Neil Cole’s “Organic Church.” In his work, Cole described the best location to plant a church’s seeds: where people already congregate. At that instant, Greer felt a pull in her heart and knew then and there she would run a coffee ministry when she graduated.
God had a different plan for her, though, and she found a career in the social work field. Although she still held the kernel of hope she would one day begin a coffee ministry, she dedicated the next several years to teenagers in foster care. During her service in the foster care system, she “developed a passion for students making the transition from high school to college,” which would later influence where she directed her ministry. The kernel in her heart persisted throughout the years, and she eventually left the social work field to take the first steps in achieving her dream. In 2016, PCA began development on an extension to the upper school building, including athletic offices, a dedicated wrestling room, two first-floor classrooms, and a second-story extension that would include two science labs and three other classrooms.
What stood out to Greer, though, was the possibility of a coffee shop addition. After reaching dead end after dead end while trying to launch her ministry, Greer saw the opportunity to serve in a high school environment and pitched her idea to the school board. As everything fell into place, from the positive responses she received to a donor contacting the school with an aspiration similar to hers, it didn’t take long for Greer’s dream to finally come true.
Working in the coffee house has become one of the biggest highlights of her life. “I love making people smile by bringing just a little joy from a cup of coffee,” Greer said. One of her biggest gifts is an exceptional memory, and many students are surprised that only after a couple of visits, Greer not only knows their names but their favorite orders. Running the coffee shop has also allowed Greer to expand her hobbies, which used to only include reading and writing. Now, she has found the time to learn latte art, visit other coffee shops both local and away to gain inspiration to improve Tanglewood Coffee House, experiment with different brews and preparation methods to “make the perfect cup,” and, most recently, utilize her new French press every morning before school begins.
Happy birthday, Tanglewood. Here’s to many more cups of coffee and changed lives through the simplicity of a caffeinated beverage!
By: Jenna Stilling ’21