Imagine dying being easier if you had access to clean water. That was the epiphany Sarah Van Putten had while walking with a friend through Swaziland and Mozambique. She thought if she focused on the broader picture of clean water it would not only help people living with AIDS but people living with other diseases.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is something we haven't heard about or talked about in quite some time. But it's part of the reason Well Grounded came to be.
In 2009, Sarah decided to take a semester off to do a nursing intern at an AIDS clinic in Gulbara, India to work with a doctor who had started the clinic 20 years earlier. Hospitals there, due to fear of being infected, would not treat AIDS patients and this clinic gave them a place to die with dignity while surrounded by people who cared about them.
Sarah reminisced about siting in the women's room laughing. They were trying to teach Sarah their language, Kannada, and would laugh at how she said things. "It was fun just hanging out with the women", she recalls. "It was a great experience".
Sarah also recalls Nagraj, a 12 year old boy who preferred to be in the women's room with his mother, even though there was a men's room. You see he was born with HIV and the normal age of survival when born with it was 13. He was having a lot of kidney problem from the water he was drinking. AIDS doesn’t kill you, it's the opportunistic infections that does. AIDS deteriorates the immune systems making it impossible for the body to fignt off bacteria and viruses. Sarah knew if Nagraj would have had access to clean water his life, albeit still short, would have been easier.
Sarah started the coffeehouse because of that trip to Gulbara, wanting to give back to that community. Initially, she started by donating money to that clinic, but after her epiphany she decided to give to Charity Water, a non profit which uses 100% of donations to fund water projects. Donations to Charity Water in the first year of Well Grounded funded a water well in Uganda.
Sarah's dream fulfillment did not come without challenges. While talking to investors and looking for places to lease, Sarah got into a car accident and fractured her neck. It resulted to her having to wear a neck brace for two weeks. However, it all worked out for her good. With the money she received from her insurance, Sarah was able to lease a cute little storefront on 24th street and start Well Grounded.
"Omaha is a very affordable and a great place to start a business without going into tons of debt," explained Sarah.
While talking, Sarah suddenly got up, walked over and started to make a drink as if someone had ordered, although no one had. Then a customer walked in and was instantly greeted by Sarah. Brittani Day-Rush, a Well Grounded regular, engaged in conversation with Sarah as she finished making her drink. I asked Brittani about Well Grounded and why she comes there.
"Great customer service!" topped the list. "It's not like a corporate coffeehouse, but one with a homey feel, that if you're having a bad day you come in and it's like 'heyyy', you're talking like friends at Cheers. And the coffee is delicious!"
That is the experience you get every time you walk through the doors. Sarah greets every customer and, if you're a regular, she remembers your order. I personally have ordered the Chai Coffee and absolutely loved it! It had just the right amount of spice to it, that makes the back of your throat tingle. YES!!
They make their own syrups, buy their milk from Burbach, NE 3 hours north of Omaha and her mother bakes all the desserts - except, of course, for the Biscotti. "People love it and come in just to get the biscotti," says Sarah. "Allison (an employee) raves about the Almond!"
Well Grounded is located in an area that has seen alot of change and renovation over the past few years, Located at 707 S. 24 St near Leavenworth it's the perfect place to enjoy a cup of joe while helping to give others clean water. So stop in today and say hi to Sarah who is Well Grounded in Charity Water.