An answer to a congregation's prayers

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:15

    Sparta-Ever have the feeling that life's been too good to you, and it's time to give something back?  According to Denise Lopes of The Gathering Place, that's exactly what happened to the former owner of the shop, Carmelina Jarvis of Lake Hopatcong.  The Gathering Place, a shop that specializes in gourmet coffee and fine baked goods, was formerly called Cafe Freedom. It is located at 21 Main Street in Sparta.   As Lopez tells it, Jarvis, the mother of young children, decided she wanted to change careers from shop owner to stay-at-home mom. At first, she considered selling the coffee shop, however at the end she had a change of heart and donated it to the First Presbyterian Church of Sparta instead. The church sits right across the street from the shop.     "Carmelina came to the Lord late in life and got solid in her faith. She felt she had been called to donate her coffee shop to the church despite the financial implications," said Dave LaTorre, chairman of the board that now runs The Gathering Place. The donation, some believe, is the answer to congregation prayers. "Several years ago, the church looked into buying the coffee shop when it was for sale as Heavenly Brew, but our budget didn't allow for it at the time. We believe the Lord has brought it back around to us," said LaTorre. The new name, The Gathering Place, describes the shop to a "T" because that's exactly what it is - a place to gather.  The shop is a place to grab a cup of coffee or tea, a pice of pastry and sit back, chat, read a book or even watch TV.  This coffee shop welcomes lingering and idle chit-chat. It's a welcoming place to pass the time on a hot summer day. Everyone who walks in is treated like an old friend. The conversation is open to all of the patrons who happened to stop in and revolves around the weather, talk of mutual friends, travel plans and sad condolences.