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Kieffer House nurtures connection with Local Roots

Coral Ciupak

Viewpoints Editor

Kieffer House nurtures connection with Local Roots

As part of a decades-old initiative to bring The College of Wooster and the surrounding community together, the College has made select campus houses available to students who are committed to community service.

The eight residents of Kieffer House volunteer on a weekly basis at Local Roots Market & Café in downtown Wooster. Local Roots is known by the greater Wooster community as a largely volunteer-run café and marketplace, selling locally produced food and other goods. Established in 2009, Local Root’s self-proclaimed mission is “To establish a year-round market place for the purpose of connecting consumers and producers of locally grown foods and other agricultural products,” with the added goals to “encourage healthy eating, expand local economic development [and] promote community involvement and sustainable living.”

With only three full-time employees, the success of Local Roots is largely dependent on the contributions and commitment of its volunteers. Student residents of Kieffer House perform various tasks like sweeping and mopping, stocking shelves and working the register. Contributions like these not only help to cultivate and maintain the unique spirit of Local Roots, but also create a meaningful and rewarding experience for its volunteers.

“I have gained a deep appreciation for the hard work all of the producers do and for the environment in which we live,” said Matt Kelly ’17, Kieffer House’s coordinator and regular volunteer at Local Roots. “Local Roots does much to educate on all the different factors hurting the environment. They also work with a number of immigrants and I have learned about different cultures through conversations with these people.”

Austin Russell ’19, next year’s housing coordinator, agrees. “I have gained lots of valuable experiences from being a part of this program due to interacting with people [who] I would not normally interact with,” he said. “Being a part of Local Roots keeps relevant in my mind how important volunteer work is and hopefully [I] will keep that ingrained in me for the rest of my life.”

To further its mission, Local Roots employs a comprehensive business model such that 75 to 82 percent of every dollar spent by the customer goes back to the person who produced, prepared or created the product. Over 150 Ohio producers are represented at Local Roots by sustainable, healthy and fair-priced products.

“Our program is unique because of the relationship we build with the producers, with the customers and with the volunteers,” said Kelly. “We see many of the producers bring in their goods and we help some of the cooks in the Café during the busy lunch hours. I never would have met people like this at a place other than this program, and I really enjoy that experience in college.”

Some of Local Roots’ products are available in the College’s C-Store for purchase, but if you’re looking to get the full experience, Local Roots is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 140 S. Walnut Street. For more information about volunteering for Local Roots or Kieffer House’s volunteer program, contact Matt Kelly at or Austin Russell at

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