PORTLAND -- A free cup of coffee is a simple gesture that can mean so much. That s why the owners of a coffee cart in Portland decided to join an international movement called suspended coffee aimed at paying it forward to strangers.

The movement, which began in Naples, Italy after World War I, was designed to help soldiers who couldn't afford a cup of coffee. Those who could do so paid a cup forward. Over time, the effort spread to 19 countries and 119 cities, including Portland.

Todd Edwards, the owner of the Ole Latte at Southwest 10th Avenue and Alder Street, loves a great brew and also loves to give back.

As people come by and share their stories of success and challenges, it's been really cool to get to know them and root for them and give them some support when it s needed, Edwards said.

Here s how it works: Customers who buy a cup of coffee for themselves can also purchase another cup or any menu item for someone else to enjoy later. A chalkboard tracks what's been donated.

The suspended coffee can go to anyone, no questions asked, whether it's a student with no change, someone living on the streets, or someone between jobs.

The person who donated also gets rewarded with a 10% discount. Portland and Houston, Texas are the only two cities in the U.S. that take part in the suspended coffee program.

Edwards said it s not a gimmick but a practice, and just as coffee is a habit, he hopes suspending coffee can become one, too.

It s about using that second or third cup of coffee to perk up the day of someone else in need.

Read or Share this story: