Starbucks Partners Bring Coffee and Comfort to COVID-19 Front-line Responders


As this global health crisis has evolved over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Starbucks partners across Canada reach out to hospital and emergency staff, firefighters, police, grocery store workers and countless others with incredible acts of support and kindness – and free coffee! 

The vast community efforts of Starbucks store partners inspired the company to broaden its support to first responders. Starting today through May 3, any customer who identifies as a front-line responder to the COVID-19 outbreak will receive a tall brewed coffee (hot or iced) at no charge. 

One of the inspiring stories we heard took place in Toronto’s Cliffside neighbourhood. There, store partners took the initiative to personally fund a Starbucks gift card to give free coffee to first responders.

The idea came about last week after the closure of cafés caused lengthy drive-thru lines to form. Baristas witnessed multiple first responders — majority of who are regulars — leave the long line without getting their coffee, so the team came together to top up a gift card with $250.  

Starbucks partners serving first responders
Aleena Zafar

“Many of my baristas felt bad and wanted to do something, so we came up with the idea of giving them free coffee without the wait. If we see [a first responder] in line, we ask them to park, get their orders and deliver them to their cars,” store manager Aleena Zafar explained. 

“In the last four days we have seen almost twice the amount of first responders. They are so grateful for us just being open. The free coffee is just a bonus.” 

During these times of uncertainty, these thoughtful gestures can go a long way, which is why Starbucks is following the lead of our store partners to provide free coffee to all front-line workers. 

Starbucks is committed to doing what’s right for its partners, customers, and communities, and has expanded its resources and support accordingly while navigating through COVID-19. This includes giving all store partners, whether they work or not, 30-day catastrophe pay for scheduled shifts, waiving eligibility requirements for the company’s emergency financial aid CUP Fund, and keeping select stores open to serve first responders and communities with limited food options.

Our partners inspire us every day. Read on to hear more about the incredible acts of kindness our partners have done for first responders thus far.

Starbucks partners serving first responders
Jennifer Mccaugherty

Jennifer Mccaugherty, a store manager in Kingston, Ont., shares how her team organized a safe drop-off of Starbucks coffee to their local emergency department.

“My wife is an emergency room nurse. She is on mat leave, but has been checking in on the hospital Facebook page. We saw that they had started to shut down the food and beverage vendors in the hospital, so we jumped on it, messaged the hospital, and took orders for that day’s workers! 

We got orders for 28 handcrafted beverages and coffees. We [wrote] thank you notes on each cup [with] the health care worker’s name. We had a worker meet us outside to fill up a cart with all the beverages and bring them into the people working. 

We want to help make the world a better place, and we have the chance to do that every day with every customer that crosses our paths. The people in our emergency department were delighted by our generosity. They said it helped them get through their 12 to 16 hour shifts.”

Starbucks partners serving first responders
Ann-Marie Lee & David King

 Ann-Marie Lee, a Vancouver store manager, shares why her team is proud to serve the Vancouver Police Headquarters during this time.

“The hashtag #strongerthancoffee really resonates as my team has taken pride [in being] chosen to stay open to share smiles and spread positivity during this sensitive time. If only for a few minutes we can spread joy, love and recharge our first responders so they can continue the important work they are doing out in the public, it is a win for us.

It’s also about uplifting people and doing our best so that our first responders [and] essential services can show up as their best selves. It means you’re not just making coffee – you’re making a difference.

I cannot say how grateful I am for partners from surrounding stores and districts offering their help so we can do this important work.”

Starbucks partners serving first responders
David Wafler-Thomas

David Wafler-Thomas, a store manager in St. Albert, Alta., shares how his team is spreading positivity in their tight-knit community.

“Three of my baristas asked if it would be OK if they spread some cheer to local grocery outlets, as well as our local hospital by [delivering] coffee travellers. Naturally I was overwhelmed with pride and I strongly encouraged them to do so. Each organization was so appreciative and grateful. We have received multiple phone calls of thanks, as well as some shout-outs on Instagram!

One of my other partners reached out to me and said he wanted to load $100 on his own Starbucks app so he could treat customers just to see them smile. What that did is create a chain reaction of ‘paying it forward.’ A woman from our community picked up on this and created a post on Facebook explaining what [this partner] was doing and encouraged others to stop by and donate to him so he could continue to create amazing best moments for our customers. So far he has had multiple people stop by with no intention of purchasing products, but just to be able to contribute to his ‘pay it forward’ funds.

Currently we are the only Starbucks open in our community so we have become the local hub for many Starbucks lovers. It brings me so much pride and joy to see the power of humanity and community come together to create truly beautiful best moments for all!”

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Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Latte Returns on August 30