The Grants Pass region is one of Oregon’s most scenic stretches of Interstate 5. Throughout numerous mountain passes from California to the Willamette Valley, craggy canyon walls and old growth trees welcome motorists to our state’s famous wild beauty.
Oregon Travel Experience supervises Manzanita rest area, located slightly north of Grants Pass. As part of OTE’s campaign to encourage drivers to rest and refresh at a supervised rest area, community volunteers serve free coffee nearly every weekend and holiday.
For long-time program volunteers Jim and Rene Ford, OTE’s Free Coffee Program means their faith-based organization, Calvary Crossroads, enacts change in the lives of teens within the Grants Pass community.
“One hundred percent of customer donations from this New Year’s weekend will go to our teen ministry and spring break activities,” said Rene Ford. Husband and wife team, Jim and Rene, were not only busy serving coffee over the weekend, but also donated gasoline to two motorists and hot chocolate to a child who needed milk.
“We got our first real coffee wagon in 1999 which had two large windows. Three workers can sit and visit comfortably with our customers,” said Rene. “We also have a propane heater so everyone is comfortable. All of our workers are eager to volunteer as it is a really fun project, easy to do, and a time of fellowship. It’s a great ministry of helping travelers to have a safe trip.”
All volunteer groups permitted to serve free coffee at OTE’s rest areas must purchase their own supplies. Rene gives an insider view of what it takes to run a successful weekend free coffee campaign. “Thirty-six volunteers manned the free coffee trailer over the busy holiday weekend,” said Rene.
“Our supplies are purchased through our member’s donations, and run about $250 per weekend,” Rene said. “The 520 customers we served over the weekend brought in $500. We actually had two motorists donate twenty-dollars each!”
While Rene and Jim Ford have been active participants in the Free Coffee Program, their community volunteerism does not end with Manzanita—they also devote energy to one of Oregon’s best historical programs, the Oregon Heritage Trails Advisory Council. OTE’s Oregon Historical Marker Program is in partnership with the advisory council.
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