Partners Helping Partners: The Starbucks CUP Fund

A Starbucks barista was at work when she got a call from her neighbor.

She was confused to hear the words “explosion” and “fire.”

The reality became clear when her neighbor said, “Your whole house is on fire.”

Janice Lee Williams-Harp hurried home in time to witness the horror of her house burning down. Her Starbucks district manager and store manager had rushed to be there with her, holding her hands and offering reassurance.

“Their support when I needed it meant everything to me,” said Williams-Harp, who felt fortunate no one was in the house when the fire started.

Williams-Harp’s manager immediately contacted Starbucks headquarters to request financial assistance from the Caring Unites Partners Fund, known by partners (employees) as the CUP Fund.

“I never expected to take back from the fund, but things come up that you never imagined,” said Williams-Harp, who is now a store manager. She had always encouraged partners to contribute to the fund.

The CUP Fund is a financial assistance program started by partners in 1998 to help each other in times of need. The fund acts as a safety net for partners by providing monetary help following natural disasters or family emergencies.

To date, the cup fund has provided about $14 million in grants to more than 12,500 partners.

Pauline Ingram, a Starbucks store shift supervisor in New Jersey, received a call from a co-worker who was checking to see if she was okay after hearing of a gas leak and explosion in Ingram’s condominium complex in March of this year.

“I left work and rushed home to check on all of our belongings, but I wasn’t allowed near the buildings,” Ingram said. “I was not able to return to my home because of the damage.”

While Ingram took days off from work, her store partners pulled together to cover her shifts. Her manager also directed her to the CUP Fund, which gave her financial support enabling her to “get back on her feet.”

Lisa Price, Rene Suruda, Dixie McCullough and Joan Moffat created the fund, not knowing it would impact thousands of partners.

“We started small. We initially started that as a test in the Pacific Northwest region, but it quickly grew,” said Lisa Price, Starbucks vice-president, Partner Resources.

The CUP Fund is now available to help partners in four countries – the United States, Canada, Japan and China.  During Super Storm Sandy (which impacted the U.S. East Coast in October of 2012), the Fund provided 270 grants to Starbucks partners, totaling $200,000. 

“The CUP Fund is about demonstrating respect, dignity, empathy, care and compassion for each of us as human  beings,” said Price.

thumbnail for Starbucks Milano Duetto – an innovative ode to coffee, arts and culture

Starbucks Milano Duetto – an innovative ode to coffee, arts and culture