Through the teamwork of multiple different nonprofits in Burke, an up - and - coming coffee shop doubling as a community center will be hosting a dinner series to highlight the growing Guatemalan population in Burke County.

The Old School Studio , also known as TOSS in Morganton , is partnering with Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, The Burke Literacy Council, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and Little Guatemala.

As previously reported in The News Herald, Little Guatemala is a new coffee shop that will be opening in August on East Union Street in the former Burke Feed and Seed building. In preparation for the opening, they will be hosting Maya of Morganton: Community Dinner Series at Faith Presbyterian Church in Morganton to help gather community input on a mural that will be painted in the coffee shop. 

“These series of three dinners is to hopefully engage both the Guatemalan community to help elevate them and give them the authority to tell their story well, but also to get other people involved and help to create a generative space,” said Kathryn Ervin, one of the founders of TOSS.

The dinners, that are free and open to the public all because of a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem , will be held on Jan. 22, Feb. 12 and March 12 all from 6-8 p.m. Childcare will be provided. The meals will be centered on unique, Guatemalan cuisine.

The first dinner will let the owners of the coffee shop, Christian and Erica Ramazzini, tell their story of how they got into the coffee-roasting business and why they are putting their energy and resources toward this project, Ervin said.

“They love the Guatemalan community and want to see it thrive,” she said.

Ervin wants to emphasize that this is not an event just for Guatemalans, but for the whole community.

“Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come,” she said.

There will be translators at each dinner, so there will be no language barriers, she said.

The second dinner in the series will bring in a Guatemalan artist that will make some renderings of the mural that will be painted. They also will have a time where those in attendance can put together their own collages of what they would like the mural to look like or represent.

The last dinner will be a celebration to reveal the design of the mural. Several vendors from the Guatemalan community will be showcasing their items as well.

“The goal of our initiative is to develop an empathetic space for community integration where the contributions of the Mayan Guatemalans to our community can be understood, promoted and enhanced,” said information from Ervin and Andrew Kota with Foothills Conservancy.

The information also tells how in the 1990s, the Hispanic population in Burke County grew 824 percent.

“Compared to the national increase of 60 percent, it is apparent that the cultural landscape of Burke County was profoundly and uniquely shifted,” the information said. “Most of this Hispanic population consists of Mayan Guatemalans who arrived as both war refugees and economic refugees. To this day, our community has failed to actively integrate long-time residents with these so-called resident aliens. While the social landscape has changed dramatically, the social conscience has largely remained stagnant.”

Ervin believes that this type of event is crucial for our community because of the current uncertainty of immigration issues in the country.

“This is recognizing that we do need to make sure we give a voice to people who are unheard,” she said.

For those who would like to attend the community dinner series or learn more about the event, visit or email

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at or 828-432-8907.

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