Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cafe Du Canton - One Woman's Journey

Early last month, we spent the morning visiting Canton's historic square. It was still early, but the heat and humidity were rising rapidly. Although I had downed a quick cup of coffee before we arrived in town, a second cup of coffee was weighing heavily on my mind. Actually, a cup of iced mocha was really what my taste buds were craving.  As I looked across the square from Canton's historic courthouse, where portions of the movie version of John Grisham's "A Time to Kill" was filmed, the storefront window pictured below caught my eye. So while the rest of my family ventured into an inviting bookstore down the street, I headed out to check out Cafe Du Canton. (Note the cupola of the courthouse in the right-hand corner of the photo and another below.)

Photo by J. Tracy

As I approached the cafe door, I noticed another window sign bearing the word "Village Confections."  Now I knew I was really in for a treat (or two!)  Likely, beignets were not the only confections for sale in Cafe Du Canton and Village Confections, and I knew immediately that I was going to indulge in something really, really, sweet.  After all, I am from the South!


Photo by J. Tracy




Photo by J. Tracy





As I entered the cafe, I was immediately impressed by its bright and cheery painted walls....lively hues of pinks, blues, and greens that framed a black and white checked floor.  And the lady behind the counter who welcomed me asked with a big friendly smile if she could help me.  Immediately, Cafe Du Canton seemed like a happy place! And as it turned out, the cafe and bakery operation is much more than what it appears to be.



Photo by J. Tracy





As I drank delicious and refreshing made-to-order iced mocha, I chatted with the friendly lady at the counter.  I asked her if she had grown up in Canton, and she replied that she had not.  She went on to explain that she and her husband and family were actually transplanted during the aftermath of Katrina, the monster hurricane that took so many lives and changed forever the lives of others along the Gulf Coast. Fortunately, her husband had soon found a job, and she had sought out a place to volunteer in an effort to give back to others.  


As she contemplated where to offer her time and talents, her husband suggested that she consider volunteering at the Christmas Village, a residential program for pregnant women over the age of 18 who are abortion vulnerable.  The program, co-founded by Brenda and Michael Van Velkinburgh, provides needs as basic as a place to live and food, as well as educational assistance and job training opportunities.  According to its website, the Christmas Village states that Village Confections is a "social entrepreneurship where our residents learn job skills," and volunteering at the bakery is a program requirement.



Photo by J. Tracy
Janice ices petit fours at Cafe Du Canton and Village Confections (July 2011)

The lady at the counter has a strong desire to help others.  Her story is one of inspiration, success and happiness, and one that helps others with new beginnings.  I listened intently and with admiration as she told me how the cafe and bakery shop, along with generous donations from individuals, churches, and other organizations, goes to help these young women at Christmas Village who choose life for their babies. (I actually observed townspeople bringing in donated items as we talked.)  Some participants, she said, return to volunteer in the bakery once they have given birth. One such young woman named "Janice," who was icing petit fours during my conversation with the owner, has graciously granted permission to include her name and  photo in this post.

I left Canton with a good feeling - I had learned much during my visit on the square. Not only did I learn about the organization named Christmas Village, but I discovered the people of Canton, Mississippi are doing their part to help young women who are faced with some very difficult choices.

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