He is now putting his passion for both into Life is Hope, a new nonprofit behind a local coffee roasting operation that is supporting an orphanage of the same name in Port-au-Prince.
The beans used to make Life is Hope Coffee are grown in Haiti, Papau New Guinea, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil and Ethiopia.
They are roasted at a facility located behind Lopez’s business, Millwork Supply, on 11th Avenue South in Jasper.
“Right now, we’re doing about 500 pounds a week. Our goal is for this to be our primary fundraiser, so that would mean between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds a week,” Lopez said.
Sales of Life is Hope Coffee have generated approximately $10,000 for the orphanage since the nonprofit was founded in September.
More than $750,000 is needed to construct a new facility for Life is Hope Orphanage, which opened in 2001 with 60 children and nearly doubled in size after the country was devastated by an earthquake in January 2010.
Currently, 100 children are sharing a handful of bedrooms at the orphanage’s two locations.
Lopez spent a week at Life is Hope Orphanage over the summer as a chaperone on a youth mission trip with his church, Jasper First United Methodist.
He was struck by not only the poverty of Haiti but also the behavior of the orphanage’s children.
The group nicknamed one boy “Little Sleepy Red Shorts” because he frequently fell asleep while being held. He is the face of Life is Hope Coffee’s Haitian Blue Marmalade.
Lopez was also taken by a little girl named Manushka.
Small and shy, Manushka craved one-on-one attention. When she saw Lopez pull a piece of gum out of his pocket, her eyes lit up.
Although Lopez urged her to keep quiet, she immediately began crying, “Chiclet! Chiclet!” — Creole for chewing gum.
Lopez watched in amazement as Manushka began biting off tiny pieces of the gum and distributing it among the children.
“By the end, she didn’t have any. She had given it all away, and she was just as happy as could be,” Lopez said.
Lopez felt God speaking to him in that moment, and he came home intent on helping the vision for Life is Hope Orphanage to become a reality.
After a month of begging did not yield the returns that he expected, Lopez started seeking a sustainable fundraiser.
At the same time, he was craving some of the coffee that he had received in Haiti.
Lopez bought some Haitian coffee and was surprised when the beans that arrived were green.
After researching the topic thoroughly, he began roasting coffee in a popcorn popper in his garage and then invested in $1,700 worth of Haitian coffee to roast and sell. The operation quickly took on a life of its own, and two commercial coffee roasters are now necessary to keep up with demand.
Word about Life is Hope Coffee has spread as far away as West Virginia and Baltimore thanks in part to Jude Hoffman, a leader of the orphanage project.
Locally, Life is Hope Coffee is available at Millwork Supply as well as through several local churches.
Lopez is currently working to get the brand in Whole Foods and on Amazon, and it will soon be advertised to churches around the country through Praying Pelican, an interdenominational Christian missions organization.
For more information, visit Life is Hope on Facebook or at www.lifeishopesouth. org.