Newtown families buy Squirrel Hill coffee, looking to spread acts of kindess

Credit: Spandan Sharma/ Credit: Spandan Sharma/

Some around Pittsburgh might find it hard to communicate to people outside the city just how it feels to have been so close to such an incomprehensible tragedy as the one that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue. This past Saturday, those that entered Commonplace Coffee were reminded that Pittsburgh is sadly not alone in this experience.

A group of alums from Frasier Woods, a school in Newtown, CT, donated $650 so that patrons of Commonplace Coffee, a coffee shop in Squirrel Hill, could enjoy a free beverage. Those that are a part of the Newtown community understand what it is like when a national tragedy happens in your neighborhood. The gift was organized by a Frasier Woods mother, Kathy Craughwell-Varda, who told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that while she knew the coffee would not fix everything, the acts of kindness that her community received following the attacks on the Sandy Hook Elementary School helped residents cope.

A post on Commonplace Coffee’s Instagram page explained, “They understand that it affects all of us, and that as individuals and communities, we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves. Join us today for some coffee and healing, and also in thanking this incredibly kind group of people.”

Students frequently patronize and work at Commonplace Coffee, which some would argue is one of the best of the coffee shops close to Carnegie Mellon. One such student was Mason Young-Shor, a junior majoring in Design who happened to be meeting a friend for a cup of coffee on Saturday. As he was waiting online to make his usual order, a medium black coffee, he noticed the barista did not accept payment from the people ahead of him, explaining that the donation from Newtown families covered the expense of their coffee.

Young-Shor found himself “grateful, not so much for the $2 but for making me feel a part of the community.” He has lived in Squirrel Hill for two years, but tended to think of himself as primarily a member of the Carnegie Mellon community. This donation made him “[look] back at all the times [he] had been able to engage with strangers through the comfort and community [that] Commonplace and Squirrel Hill offer” and “place value in those connections.”

The gift offered at Commonplace that day, from Newtown residents to Squirrel Hill residents, was not just one of coffee. “The gift that Newtown families gave me and I hope all the others who were fortunate enough to sit down in Commonplace that day, who read this article, and members of the Squirrel Hill or any similar effected community, was a sense of being, being part, being supported, and being loved, and I am grateful for that,” Young-Shor said. As Craughwell-Varda said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this gift was meant to “just let them know we are thinking about them, and that they are not alone.”