For the last two months, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has welcomed the public to its Keya Cafe in the Cokata Wiconi teen center for hot breakfast, homemade baked goods and specialty coffees. Now, the 25-year-old, not-for-profit youth organization is preparing to take the cafe, whose name means “turtle” in the Lakota language, to the next level: Next month, it will begin serving lunch, as well.
According to Jerri LaPlante, Keya Cafe manager, lunch service will begin during the second week of May. “We’re planning to start with soups, sandwiches and salads, plus daily lunch specials such as roast beef and lasagna,” she said. “Once the school year ends, and we have interns on board, we’ll expand the lunch menu for the summer months.”
The Keya Cafe, which opened its doors in late January with support from a grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, currently serves coffee beverages, juices, smoothies, hot breakfast entrees and a variety of homemade baked goods, featuring locally sourced ingredients and produce from CRYP’s 2-acre, naturally grown, pesticide-free Winyan Toka Win Garden. All menu items are made fresh on site each day.
The cafe is open Monday through Saturday. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., while the coffee shop is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cafe is closed on Sundays.
According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, the cafe is a key element in the organization’s long-term vision for operating a variety of sustainable enterprises at its East Lincoln Street campus in Eagle Butte. That vision began with the Winyan Toka Win garden more than 10 years ago, and it has grown to encompass the Keya Gift Shop, the Leading Lady Farmers Market and now the Keya Cafe as well.
“For years, we discussed the potential for developing an all-natural, highly productive garden that would be a sustainable source of fresh, processed and canned foods,” Garreau said. “Now that our sustainable agriculture program is established and thriving, we’re able to use our own healthy produce to provide meals and snacks at our youth and teen centers, stock our summertime Leading Lady Farmers Market, create desirable merchandise for our gift shop and furnish many of the nutritious foods that we now prepare and serve in the cafe.”
Not only do proceeds from CRYP’s sustainable enterprises support youth programming and Family Services at the youth project’s Eagle Butte campus, the initiatives themselves support the ongoing development of youth leadership on South Dakota’s 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River reservation. This year, CRYP will be offering internships in the Keya Gift Shop and Keya Cafe; and, its Winyan Toka Win garden internships will return for a second year.
“We’re excited to get our teens involved in these various enterprises,” Garreau said. “Not only will they develop a solid work ethic, they’ll take on a valuable leadership role here at our campus. They’ll assist with developing wellness programming for their peers as well as for the younger children, and along the way, they’ll also learn business skills, life skills, diabetes prevention and holistic wellness.
“But that’s not all,” she continued. “One of our goals has always been to reconnect young people with the earth, and whether they’re working in the garden or staffing the farmer’s market, gift shop or cafe, they’ll learn so much about respecting the land, the water and the fruits of the earth. They’ll develop a deeper understanding what food sovereignty and security means, and they’ll learn to incorporate Lakota principles into everything they do.”
Garreau said CRYP’s sustainable enterprises are designed to serve as classrooms for their young people. They’re also intended to make the Cokata Wiconi teen center a true community gathering place, as it always was meant to be.
“Cokata Wiconi means ‘center of life’ in Lakota,” Garreau explained. “The Keya Cafe, in particular, provides a welcoming new venue for our friends and neighbors to gather and visit, eat breakfast and enjoy a delicious hot beverage. At the same time, it provides jobs, training and another sustainable source of income for our programming and community services.”
She also noted that, while visiting the cafe, guests are encouraged to check out the Keya Gift Shop, which sells Keya Cafe brand coffee beans and mugs, as well as art prints, jewelry, CRYP T-shirts and sweatshirts, and a broad range of homemade food items. For those who do not live on Cheyenne River: Gift shop items, including coffee and mugs, can be ordered by phone and shipped anywhere in the country.
For more information about the Keya Cafe, call (605) 964-8200 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For updates and special offers, join the Facebook community at www.facebook.com/keyacafecoffee.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.