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He went to Love Coffee for a job, and found a community

He went to Love Coffee for a job, and found a community

Tomas Swenson prefers to sleep late, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays he wakes up early, makes himself a cup of coffee and leaves home to catch a bus.

The journey starts around 9 a.m., when bus No. 3 takes Tomas from his home in Columbia to the Wabash bus station. From there, he hops on a second bus, then walks for 10 to 15 minutes and finally reaches his destination.

Tomas Swenson writes down his work hours

Tomas Swenson writes down his work hours on a time sheet at the end of the day on March 15 in Columbia. Swenson has to look at the paper sheet closely or use a magnifier.

Love Coffee co-workers hang out together

From the left, Love Coffee co-workers Dena Muskopf, Sarah Rybolt and Tomas Swenson, hang out together during their break at work on March 15 in Columbia. During the break, they talk, eat lunch and prepare and fold napkins.

Tomas Swenson makes coffee

Barista Tomas Swenson makes coffee March 15 at Love Coffee in Columbia. Love Coffee shop helps people with disabilities find employment and get involved in the community.

Tomas Swenson passes an old banknote

Tomas Swenson passes an old banknote to Bec Francis and asks about its origin April 8 at Swenson’s house in Columbia. Francis is a part of Swenson’s extended family. They have a good relationship and call each other godmother and godson. “We like to get together and play Yahtzee and watch ‘The Three Stooges,’” Francis said.

Tomas Swenson smiles looking at Bec Francis' phone

Tomas Swenson looks at Bec Francis’s phone April 8 at Swenson’s house in Columbia. Swenson lives in Columbia, but plans to move to the Branson area, where his girlfriend lives, and find a new job.

Pictures from Tomas Swenson's album sit on a table

Pictures from Tomas Swenson’s album sit on a table April 8 at Swenson's house in Columbia. Swenson, originally from Guatemala, was adopted by parents from America. Before meeting his brother and sisters in the U.S., Swenson was gifted an album with pictures and written stories about the life he would have with his new family.

Tomas Swenson walks to the bus station

Tomas Swenson walks to the bus station to catch the bus to work March 17 in Columbia. Tomas has lived independently for more than four years. Swenson goes to work every Tuesday and Thursday. On his days off, he goes shopping, meets with friends and works on his new job applications.

  • Photo & Doc reporter, 2022 Spring Studying Photo & Doc journalism Reach me at bbrnv@umsystem.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • I am a city editor at the Missourian and an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. I help students develop, report and write their stories for publication.

  • I am an Assistant Director of Photography at the Missourian and a photojournalism graduate student at MU's School of Journalism. In the past, I've worked as an education reporter, staff photographer and photo editor. Reach me at ejrxch@umsystem.edu

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