Klamath County Transition Program’s newest venture is a mobile coffee cart that can set up anywhere If you’ve been to any of the local high school football games this fall or last month’s Benefit for the Basin, you may have seen the Klamath County Transition Program’s newest business venture – the JO2GO mobile coffee cart.
JO2GO’s new coffee shop on wheels made its debut in late August at Klamath County School District’s teacher in-service. Since then, it’s been traveling around the county on the JO2GO Touchdown Tour, offering espresso drinks at high school football games from Lost River and Henley to Bonanza and Chiloquin. It also was at Henley’s Homecoming powderpuff football game and bonfire.
For customers, JO2GO is a place they can buy their favorite drink. For transition program students who make, serve and sell the coffee, it is a place to learn the skills they need to live independently and work outside the program. The Klamath County School District’s transition program is for young adults ages 18-21 with special needs.
The program operates two business – JO2GO coffee carts and a janitorial service called Clean Sweep.
“The mobile coffee cart is probably the closest experience we can give them to a real job,” said Laura Blair, special services director for the Klamath County School District. “We’re putting the students in a situation just like the local coffee drive-through, where it is fast-paced. I believe they walk away with a skill set that would allow them to land gainful employment.”
Randy Denson, the headteacher of the Klamath County Transition Program, is the driving force behind the program and its ventures. Three years ago, KCTP launched the JO2GO business at the downtown library and the KCSD central office. The program also delivers coffee drinks to the schools throughout the district. Other activities include cooking and serving a holiday meal for community stakeholders and organizing a community-wide dance for people with special needs.
“As we started growing, it was important to transition from teaching soft skills within the program itself to putting students out into the public in various scenarios where they could use those skills,” Denson said.
The mobile coffee cart and all JO2GO locations – the school district central office and the downtown library — now take credit and debit cards.
Brian Dunham, CEO of Carriage Works, worked with the program to design and build the mobile cart. Carriage Works also designed the current coffee kiosks at the library and school district office. Rob Quackenbush of Quackenbush Coffee helped the program design and set up the coffee-making equipment and trained staff and students on how to make the drinks.
“Carriage Works has been very generous to the program, and Rob Quackenbush has been a big ally for us,” Denson said.
From idea to reality, the mobile JO2GO cart was a two-year process. “It was a challenge, figuring out how we wanted it to be,” Denson said. “With the weather, it made sense to build a completely mobile cart.”
All proceeds from the cart go to the Klamath County Transition Program, which pays for supplies and equipment for the business as well as food and equipment for the program. And the cart has been popular. At a Henley football game, for example, student workers sold $300 worth of drinks in just over an hour.
The JO2GO business model is just one example of the step-by-step life skills taught during a student’s three years in the program. First, students learn to make coffee drinks at the Transition House. From there, they may work in one of the two kiosks. The most advanced students work in the new mobile cart, which is as fast-paced and professional as the local drive-through coffee stands.
Denson said the real work experience students get from working at the cart is the goal of the program. “The confidence that it gives our students is what’s important, not how much money we make,” he said. “The socialization and exposure are more valuable than making drinks and trying to make a profit.”
Blair credited Denson with the program’s expansion and success of its students. “Randy’s program teaches these kids that they can do anything,” she said. “That’s really the key. He just makes them believe in themselves.”
Future plans include starting a catering business. “The next phase is trying to get our kitchen certified at the Transition House so we can do a catering business, along with our coffee,” Denson said.
Denson also started a video series on the KCTP Facebook page called “Break time with Jo” that features the JO2GO student workers and interviews community members who talk about the importance of inclusion. The show also features a trivia question. The next show features Mazama and Henley football coaches – Jonathon Fullerton and Alex Stork – and will be released the week of Oct. 25 before the rivalry between the Vikings and Hornets.football coaches from Mazama and Henley.
“I think it’s really important for the community to see our students, what they can do and what they know,” Denson said. “Our leaders see the importance of having transition students in our community.”
He also encourages students to advocate for themselves. “We want them to know about their disability and be open about it,” he explained. “Everyone has struggles. That struggle doesn’t have to limit success.”
Denson is hoping to eventually get businesses to sponsor the videos. For more information about using the JO2GO coffee cart at an event or the Klamath County Transition Program, contact Randy Denson at 541-891-0188.