A bumper crop

LegacyWorks organically cultivates young lives

Written by Karen Long

Within walking distance of West High School there’s a house filled with young people working, laughing and learning. It smells of wet clay and tomatoes and coffee roasting. This is Legacy House, where teens from tough places are hired into the LegacyWorks program. Here they find community, friendship and something that may be missing in their own homes.

“Legacy stands in the gap for kids who lack the support and resources to realize their full potential,” explains Shelly Westfall, executive director of Legacy Ministries, the parent non-profit. These may be teenagers from placement homes or foster homes. They could be wrestling with trauma or addiction, or at risk of entering the juvenile system.

Budding employees

Through LegacyWorks, these teens are hired into one of three “social enterprises” and are involved with all aspects of running the ventures: GardenWorks, PotteryWorks or CoffeeWorks. As they progress through four levels, roughly corresponding with the four years of high school, they learn to plant and harvest, to mold clay or to roast coffee.

In GardenWorks the student employees work an urban farm and sell their produce through a Harvest Shares program, and in PotteryWorks they photograph their products and learn to manage inventory. In CoffeeWorks they gain an understanding of international trade and are exposed to a larger sphere of thinking — one that includes the entire world. “When you create something it’s a whole other level of ownership and pride,” says Westfall.

In the process the teenagers are cultivating a resume with a branching list of skills that would catch the attention of any employer such as reliability, goal setting, communication, leadership, public speaking and integrity.

A flourishing future

Some teens find their way into the program through LegacyCreative, a series of camps centered on creative pursuits such as painting, music, dance, drama and more. That was the case for one young lady who was in the foster care system. She was hired by GardenWorks in the summer of 2019. That fall she took on more responsibility and overcame her fear of public speaking in order to share her story and raise awareness for the Legacy programs.

“And now she’s got her CNA and she’s working,” says Westfall. “I just learned the other day that she’s planning to get married next year.” Another graduate, a young man, is working for a brick masonry company. “And he’s loving it. He’s creating these beautiful outdoor kitchens. He’s like, ‘I’m going to buy a house next year.’ The kid is 19!”

To purchase pottery handcrafted by the teens, and small-batch artisanal coffee roasted right here in Wichita go to legacyworksict.org, where all three LegacyWorks ventures sell their products. Westfall says a new CoffeeWorks director hired this year “has connections to some cooperatives that get us as close to buying direct from local farmers as you can get. The exciting part about that is we get to support those farmers and also support our youth. It makes me feel like our work is doing something globally as well as locally.”

Right now at the LegacyWorks online shop you can purchase a lovely Guatemalan coffee with notes of juicy orange and sweet cream. And also confidence, creativity and hope.

Christmas special
Coffee & mug bundle


Get involved

Like most non-profits, LegacyWorks cancelled their in-person fundraising events this year due to Covid. Here’s how you can support them now:

Purchase their products, make a direct donation or sponsor an employee at legacyworksict.org.

Employers can offer a teenager an interview opportunity, with no obligation to hire. Reach out to Shelly Westfall through the contact form at legacyworksict.org. She is also available to answer questions and arrange tours of Legacy House.

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