PEI

Coffee and cuddles for a cause in small-town P.E.I.

Coffee shop owner Steven Fancy wanted to add a shot of excitement to his customer's coffee experience and help a local group at the same time, so he adopted three young goats, built a barnyard and hired 51-year-old James Larter.
James Larter, left, and Steven Fancy love taking care of the goats. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC)

There are some new faces at Fancy's Coffee Counter in Murray River, P.E.I., this summer.

Owner Steven Fancy wanted to add a little shot of excitement into his customer's coffee experience and help a local group at the same time. He adopted three young goats, built a backyard barnyard and hired 51-year-old James Larter — a client from the Kingswood Centre in Montague — to help care for them.

"I clean the hay and rake up the leaves. I love it," Larter said.

The Kingswood Centre offers day program services to adults with intellectual disabilities and also run a bakery and a woodworking shop staffed by its clients. Larter works in both and now he's using his skills to help care for the coffee shop's property and its goats.

"He's such a friendly guy. He does really well with the goats," Fancy said. "They're super comfortable with him so he'll help us feed them and clean out their bed and that kind of stuff.

"I'd worked with Inclusions East in the past teaching an international cooking class, which was something fun for me to do. They impressed me so much with their skills so I said why wouldn't we hire somebody from there and get them working for us."

'It feels really good to finally give back'

Fancy hired Larter because he knows what it's like to face a challenge.

'We never started the coffee shop hoping to get rich, but it's really awesome to be able to give back a little bit,' Fancy says. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC)

Fancy was born with Stargardt's disease, a condition that causes macular degeneration in young people.

He started to lose his vision at nine years old and was legally blind by the time he was 12. 

But thanks to a lot of help and support, Fancy's blindness never held him back. He went to university, became a marine biologist and now runs his own business.

"I wouldn't have gotten to this point where I am in my career and with my life and all the things that I've done without tons of support," he said. 

"So if I get a chance to do that, it feels really good to finally give back."

Helping raise money

The Kingswood Centre is under the umbrella of Inclusions East, an organization that finds meaningful employment and homes for people with intellectual disabilities.

The donation box was built by Larter, and all the money collected will be given to the new building fund for the Kingswood Centre. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC)

The group is outgrowing its current space, so it's trying to raise money to build a bigger building. Fancy buys 40 per cent of his baked goods from the centre's bakery, but he wanted to do more.

"They're a little bit crowded at the current Kingswood Centre and they're trying to raise over a million dollars, so we figured we might be able to help them out a little bit," he said.

The business is doing that by giving all of Fancy's own tips to the Kingswood Centre.

"So if you come to visit the goats, it's free experience. But we do ask if you're able … make a donation with us and then we pass that directly onto the Kingswood for their building fund."

Snuggling goats

The coffee shop's new goats are delighting customers like six-year-old Zeno Ferrari — visiting with his family from Gatineau, Que.

Zeno Ferrari had a blast playing with the goats. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC)

Ferrari spent time playing in the shop's shady backyard with two dwarf goats named Maple and Ash and a fainting goat named Soda.

 "I just like when they snuggle up against you, it feels really nice," he said.

Customers can leave a donation for Inclusions East in the small green box that hangs on the door of the goat's house.

The donation box was built by Larter, and all the money collected will be given to the new building fund for the Kingswood Centre.

"Helping out anything in the community feels good for us," Fancy said. 

"We never started the coffee shop hoping to get rich, but it's really awesome to be able to give back a little bit."

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