For a Starbucks store manager in Puerto Rico, picking coffee is as natural as pouring coffee.
On a mountainside, Jessica De Jesus held the branch of a coffee tree with one hand and carefully picked ripe, red cherries with the other. The coffee cherry, a small fruit containing two coffee seeds referred to as beans, will spoil if it’s not harvested by hand at the right moment. De Jesus picked coffee through a Starbucks coffee community program called No lo Dejes Caer, meaning “don’t let it fall.”
The effort, in its ninth year, is addressing the shortage of coffee pickers Puerto Rico while raising funds for children in need. The value of the coffee beans picked at Hacienda San Pedro in Jayuya is donated to a children’s center in a nearby community.
“Knowing that the contribution of just our hands, which is what they need so their coffee does not go to waste, has taught me to appreciate this difficult work and just how valuable this crop is,” said De Jesus, who has volunteered to pick coffee cherries for several years.
De Jesus is one of the many Starbucks partners (employees) who volunteer in their Latin American communities throughout the year. She’s among those helping Starbucks reach the goal of having partners, customers and community members contribute more than one million community service hours per year by 2015.
During the company’s Global Month of Service, now underway, more than 55,000 volunteers come together to participate in 2,000 projects in 40 countries. Last year, Latin America alone completed 250 community service projects. The work fosters long-term, positive change in neighborhoods around the world.
Some of the partners making a difference in South America include Julio Suarez Castro, a Starbucks store manager in Chile who spends more than 400 hours of his time volunteering. Dianna Colonna Granda, with Starbucks in Peru, conducts recycling projects and organizes home rebuilding projects in low-income areas. Camila Carelli devotes her Saturday mornings to talking with women in prison in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Carelli, a Starbucks administrative assistant, is a volunteer interpreter. She also helps the women who are released from prison find housing and jobs. Through this community service work, Carelli said she is able to “see people in a different way.”
“I see how fragile people are and how we need each other,” she said.
In Central America, Edgar Jerez, a Starbucks shift supervisor, helps those in need by delivering food to people in Guatemala’s “extremely poor villages.” Education programs are the focus of Kelly Villalta’s volunteer service in El Salvador. The Starbucks store manager said she is determined to “bring hope and smiles to the children.”
“Our presence is really important to these kids, as we are an example and role model for them,” Villalta said. “For this reason, whenever there is an opportunity for partners to help and improve community, we are always willing to do it.”
The Starbucks partners are motivated to assist people in their communities because they believe, as Villalta added, “it only takes one person to change someone’s life.”
“Starbucks has taught me it is not just about coffee,” she said. “We are also people who can inspire and nurture the children and others in our community.”