RACINE, Wis. — Sometimes a cup of coffee can make all the difference in your day.
At The Main Project and Cafe in Racine, Deontrae Mayfield has been leaving his mark on the city he grew up in.
"We have a sign that says 'it’s a place to unite for all things good,' and that was my vision for it," Mayfield said.
Mayfield transformed the formerly abandoned building into a cafe in October of 2020. It became a place that welcomes everyone and offers space for people to gather for meetings and at times spotlight local businesses.
"Deontrae is one of those people who doesn't meet a stranger because he's just going to talk to you, and he's going to make you feel welcome in his establishment," said customer Shayla Malone.
Malone was preparing to host her child's birthday party in the cafe's back room.
"It’s not a black coffee shop. It’s a community coffee shop. You have everyone meeting here from the county executive to, you had Mandela Barnes come through," said Pastor Melvin Hargrove, who is also Mayfield's cousin and mentor.
The cafe also serves as a headquarters and a way to fund many community efforts helping others.
"Anything that we can do, any need that we see that we can fill, we’re trying to do," Mayfield said.
Some of Mayfield's outreach includes organizing Thanksgiving dinners for more than a hundred families, hosting summer activities for kids, a collection drive for coats and backpacks, and a group of men to help out in schools. Mayfield partners with other organizations in the city as well.
"He’s community-minded. Everything he does is about the community," said customer and friend Alfonso Gardner.
"I told him, 'Man you make me tired with your vision,'" Hargrove said. "Because he’s hardheaded and stubborn, he figured you know I gotta make this thing happen, but it’s not easy."
Mayfield wants to make a difference for young people and help them stay out of trouble, by teaching them skills and offering guidance. He knows firsthand what it is like to go down the wrong path.
"I was influenced by music. Back in our days it was a drug culture and I indulged in it, and that led me to 13 years in total in federal prison. I came from a great family on both sides, great family, but kids make their decisions," Mayfield said.
Mayfield said he spent his time in prison reading and writing nearly two dozen books, focused on reinventing himself.
In 2020, Gateway Technical College recognized him as one of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarians for his contributions to society.
The work is not easy, but Mayfield is making a difference.
"I know I am. It’s hard to think it sometimes but I know I am," said Mayfield.