Brewing friendships

Talkee Coffee Club offers break from daily grind

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Members of the Talkee Coffee Club, including Anna Hochstetler (front row, third from left), Dena Sensenig (fourth from left) and Verena Beckel (fifth from left), pause for a photo at Redemption Coffeehouse and Roastery in Spooner, Wis. Photo: Dena Sensenig

Friendships are brewing over cups of coffee as women visit local coffee shops in northern Wisconsin—all because one woman listened to a whisper to show up.

Dena Sensenig had an idea for a coffee-related gathering after hearing about a coffee crawl in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. At the time, Sensenig was attending a retreat with five women from her church, Sand Lake Chapel in Stone Lake, Wisconsin, and others, including sister MB church Exeland (Wisconsin) Mennonite Church.

The crawl consisted of multiple stops in one day, and Sensenig knew she couldn’t handle that many cups of coffee in 24 hours. But, inspired by retreat speaker Taunya Todd, Sensenig sensed a nudge to show up for her own community. As she and the other women returned from the retreat, they devised a plan to visit 12 locally run coffee shops in 12 months.

With that, the Talkee Coffee Club was born.

Robust friendships

Stone Lake is an unincorporated town in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, an area with forests, rivers and lakes popular with tourists and for outdoor recreation. Stone Lake does have a coffee shop, and the women, from various churches and the community, began their adventure at The Whistle Punk in November 2022. Friendships developed as the dozen women chatted for a few hours over cups of coffee.

The club has met the first Saturday of each month since at different coffee shops within an hour’s drive for most women. Often, they head west to Spooner, a town of about 3,000 people.

“It’s amazing how many little coffee shops are out there when you look for them,” Sensenig says. “We want to support the local coffee shops to show them they are seen, and we appreciate them so much.”

Talkee Coffee’s motto, “Be Seen, Be Known, Belong,” is noted on each member’s personalized coffee cup.

Talkee Coffee’s motto is “Be Seen, Be Known, Belong.” In a Facebook group, Sensenig invites the women to share prayer requests.

“How many times do we try to blend into our surroundings and hide what’s really happening inside?” Sensenig says in an email interview. “We want to see people who need us to show up for them. We also need to allow ourselves to be seen by others. Then as the friendship grows, you get to know each other. This part can be done by living wholeheartedly, with God-confidence. Last, we want people to belong and know there is a place where they are always welcome. Ultimately, this would be the family of Jesus.”

As relationships bloomed and conversations deepened, the women began incorporating activities like shopping or planting flowers at a greenhouse after their coffee gathering.

The women have personalized mugs and “passport shirts” with logos of the coffee shops they visit, a perk of Sensenig’s and her mother’s crafting hobby. Sensenig requests permission from shop owners to use their logos, and this has led to relationships as well.

“I have more community connections, not just the ladies from Talkee Coffee but (also) my connection with the owners,” Sensenig says. “They are people, too. I normally would have placed my order and walked away when it was filled. Now I stand there and have conversations with the owners or employees.”

Because of its success in filling hearts as much as cups, Talkee Coffee is expected to continue beyond 12 months.

“While the group itself has been very consistent with 12-16 ladies coming each month, the connection is much larger with the potential of growing every month,” Sensenig says. “I hope that women go home with their hearts filled and their energy for their lives renewed. I hope they look forward to Talkee Coffee as much as I do for the friendship.”

Blending generations

According to Anna Hochstetler, Sensenig’s mother and another of the club’s founders, Talkee Coffee offers rich intergenerational relationships.

“I see Talkee Coffee as a way to help women of many ages to see each other in a new light as we reach into the communities around us,” Hochstetler says. “Ages of the ladies who are coming range from 15 to over 70. I definitely hear people listening and offering ideas, encouragement, prayers and sometimes answers to each other. I find it being a little deeper and more open each time.”

Verena Beckel, another initial member, notes the importance of community.

“In a world that is busy and stressful, Talkee Coffee is a place to sit and relax,” Beckel says. “A place where each woman is special and important. If it matters to you it matters to me because no one should do life alone. I love each Talkee Coffee meeting because for a few hours I am surrounded by women who I know love me just as I am and don’t want me to feel alone.”

As Sensenig has poured into the club, Talkee Coffee has provided new friendships, purpose and confidence.

“I was a stay-at-home lonely mama, (and) now I have a monthly gathering of close friends I didn’t know more than as an acquaintance or not at all before,” she says. “I feel supported and pray they do, too. It all started with a whisper or nudging to show up.”

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