The old adage “You can’t come home again” certainly does not apply to Robert (Bobby) Cox. He has proven that someone can return to their roots and even make a difference. After spending years in the Middle East in the field of peacekeeping and law enforcement, Cox now strives to give back to his hometown of Kokomo.
Cox’s career began when he was in his early twenties when he went to work at the Indiana Department of Correction. There he learned hostage negotiating techniques that provided him the knowledge he needed when he traveled to the Middle East to work as a trainer for the Afghan National Police. He was in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2012.
“I took another position in 2013 in the United Arab Emirates in Dubai,” he says. “I was part of an embedded training task force to develop a federal police agency that could extradite criminals back to the country where they committed a crime. At the time, there was no force that could bring a criminal back if they fled to another emirate.”
When Cox returned home to Kokomo in 2017, he continued working in law enforcement as a deputy for Carroll County in the Burlington police department. However, he also started doing something completely different. He opened MO Joe Coffee House in May 2018. With its cozy vibe, comfortable seating areas and unique art on the wall, he had no idea what a force for good the store would become until he witnessed something extraordinary.
“I was walking through the shopping mall when I heard a girl playing piano for tips,” Cox says. “She played really well so I invited her to set up at the coffee shop that night. We are open until 1 a.m. on weekends, but she didn’t get there until after 11:30 p.m. because she had to walk. She had bought a car from someone on the condition it would get needed repairs. The car owner skipped out and she didn’t have the money to pay the repair shop. Her keyboard had missing keys and she had to keep putting batteries in it because the power outlet was broken.
“Afterwards I thought to myself that there had to be a way to help her out,” he adds. “I went into Sound of Music, which is across from the coffee house. They knew who I was talking about because the girl had been in the store looking at keyboards. They sold me one at cost and donated some attachments. Later, I was talking about it and customers overheard me. People started donating money to pay for the car repairs. Burns Auto donated the labor. We raised so much money that we were able to give her the extra.”
The heartwarming moment when it was revealed that the auto bill was paid and the keyboard was given was caught on video and posted to Facebook where it has had more than 16,000 views. It was a pivotal experience for Cox who since then has enabled and opened the coffee house doors to fundraising of all kinds. He knows that what he gives to the community will return back to him.
“Why would I want to give money to a radio station for advertising when I can use that money for the good of the community?” he says. “That’s how I want my social footprint to look.”
Visit MO Joe Coffee House at 106 North Main Street or the new sister store, MO Joe Café at 2130 West Sycamore Street. View MO Joe Coffee Company on Facebook @mojocoffeekokomo for more information.