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Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op Finds New Ownership, Builds Infant Mortality Initiatives

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op Finds New Ownership, Builds Infant Mortality Initiatives
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After hosting their third community baby shower, Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op announced some changes in store for the social enterprise. Owners and sisters Victoria Calderon Nunes and Virginia Nunes Gutierrez are doubling down on the Co-op’s ongoing infant mortality initiatives and taking a step back from day-to-day operations of the coffee shop. Stepping in for them are new owners Josh and Meghan Boone of Cova Cowork, who’ll also be growing Bottoms Up’s co-working space.

Gutierrez, who’s currently nine months pregnant, said the timing just made sense, especially as Nunes has been traveling further from Columbus, living in Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, and now Texas.

“We thought, ‘Okay, how are we going to make the day-to-day operations better for Bottoms Up? Let’s look into having operators come into the space, and we can better focus on the infant mortality initiative as a whole other branch of its own.’”

In the last year, Bottoms Up has worked with more than 300 women, with the help of a community health worker from the City of Columbus’ CelebrateOne project. The city’s initiative looks to reduce Franklin County’s infant mortality rates and eliminate the racial disparity that puts black women at about three times the risk of losing their baby than white women.

About eight CelebrateOne community health workers have been dispatched to the west side neighborhoods of Hilltop and Franklinton, one of the eight highest-risk communities for infant mortality in the county.

“To put it in perspective, Grandview is two miles down the road, and for every 1,000 live births, they have about 1.3 infant deaths,” Gutierrez said. “Here on the west side, we have anywhere from 17 to 21 deaths per 1,000 lives births.”

These health workers, using Bottoms Up as a community hub, connect expecting moms with vital resources. Addressing the social determinants of health (access to healthcare, education, neighborhood safety, social support, and economic stability), they make sure moms have access to food and rides to prenatal appointments. They join in on these appointments as well, acting as patient advocates in what’s been exposed as a racially biased healthcare system.

At Bottoms Up, expecting moms can find additional resources, especially at their community baby showers, each of which have had about 250 women. There, women can connect with more than 20 nonprofit organizations. They receive a free diaper bag with wipes and diapers, and they can enter a raffle to win a stroller or a car seat. The coffee shop is regularly stocked with diapers which are given away daily (4,000 to date).

Gutierrez said more initiatives are in the plans, including a mom mentorship program that can create a social support system for isolated moms. The mentorship program would aim to address economic segregation, connecting “mothers from a stable place” to those in need.

“We want to create relationships. Maybe she has a cradle she’s not using anymore, or has some baby clothes she can pass on,” Gutierrez said.

“I’m an immigrant, and thinking about how I came upon a stable life, it was through relationships and people who gave me access to opportunities,” she continued. “If you’re not around people who have access, you’re going to stay within that cycle of poverty, because you don’t have that relationship.”

As Gutierrez and Nunes look to build on this program and others, they’ve turned to Cova Cowork to assume ownership over the coffee shop. The sisters still own the building, though, and will be at Bottoms Up to continue to build the space as a community hub. Gutierrez said she’s looking to go beyond Bottoms Up as well in the near future.

“I think the main thing we’re seeing is how we can be a presence, not only inside of the space we’re working with, but taking it outside those four walls as well,” she said. “We’ve been building the capacity to do this for the past two years. That’s where we want to grow more — grow outside Bottoms Up’s walls and have it be this space where we can come together and regroup.”

For more information, visit bottomsupcoffee.com

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