Somewhere in the world, nearly every day of the year, a Starbucks partner (employee) is volunteering in his or her neighborhood.
Community service is a year-round commitment for Starbucks, with a special emphasis placed on making a difference through volunteer projects in April – the company’s Global Month of Service.
This year Starbucks partners, customers and nonprofit groups united to work on 1,691 projects in one month. Together they spent more than 232,244 hours volunteering on projects that impacted an estimated 1.4 million people.
Here are some of the projects that had an impact in the neighborhoods where Starbucks partners live and work. Click on the titles to read the full stories.
In the hours after a massive landslide engulfed the tiny community of Oso, Washington, rescue workers faced the daunting task of finding signs of life in a 300-acre area strewn with trees, boulders, obliterated buildings and debris as deep as a seven-story building in some places.
“It is heart wrenching. My husband is a firefighter and I know a lot of the first responders. Everyone in this area knows someone affected by the mudslide,” Jen Bilow said. “The community is hurting as the enormity of what happened sinks in.”
She manages the Starbucks store in Arlington, 20 miles west of the disaster zone. Twice a day Bilow and her store partners (employees) delivered food, hot water, and 40 gallons of coffee to rescue crews and community members.
“We all wanted to help and we jumped in to help because that’s the kind of people Starbucks hires,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do for our neighbors.”
Almost every major city around the world has some neighborhoods with drab, concrete walls that make the area look uninviting or even unsafe. It’s amazing what a difference splashes of colorful paint can make.
More than 300 Starbucks China partners (employees) and volunteers gathered to transform the Hongmei Community in Shanghai. After sweeping the streets, they began painting murals on concrete walls bordering several roads. Images of green grass and trees, bright flowers and rainbows, smiling children riding school busses and balloons floating through the blue sky appeared on the walls within hours.
In Beijing, over 900 volunteers – 440 Starbucks partners and almost 500 customers and community volunteers – completed dozens of projects in April. Along with painting murals, they planted a vegetable garden for 50 elderly families and taught classes on environmental education and personal safety for 570 students.
Throughout Starbucks China and Asia Pacific region, partners reach out to their customers and communities in relevant ways. That care was visibly obvious in Seoul, where Starbucks Coffee Korea hosted an environmental campaign in support of the city government’s year-long environmental initiative.
Many of the Global Month of Service projects, including volunteer work in Denver and Atlanta, focused on environmental work.
“To have a Fortune 500 company say we want to give back to the community has a tremendous ability to transform neighborhoods and communities,” said Albus Brooks, a Denver City Councilman. “My goodness to have a company focus on the triple-p bottom line – not just profit but people and planet too – is making a difference for us.”
The journey from Mexico City to a Starbucks store in Houston, Texas has been greater than the close to 1,000 miles that separate the two communities for a young barista.
“When I first moved to the United States, I couldn’t even say hello,” recalled Anita Kinchen. “My daughter was in school and the more comfortable she became with English, the more lost I felt. I couldn’t even help her do her homework. It was a very frustrating part of my life.”
It was in talking to a close friend that she heard about the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA), a nonprofit organization that encourages young Latinos to finish their education and prepares them to be successful in the workplace. While some people come to AAMA to earn a high school diploma or complete a GED, Kinchen enrolled to learn English and become a stronger communicator.
The Starbucks where Kinchen was first a customer, and later a partner (employee), has a special connection with AAMA. Located in Houston’s East End neighborhood, the location is a Starbucks Community Store.
Starbucks Community Stores around the world play a central role in supporting revitalization efforts to address education, employment, health, housing, and safety issues in neighborhoods. In addition to Houston, other locations include: San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles, CA; New York City; Seattle and Lakewood, Washington; and Bangkok, Thailand.
With a classic Boston accent, Peter Petrillo said he’s been with “Staahbucks” since October of 2012.
“I get a chance to really connect with people who come in every day. I love this company and I love this city,” Petrillo said. “Boston has a reputation of being a tough city, but that’s just a persona. When you get underneath that, from the culture to the people, everything about Boston is just awesome.”
Petrillo is one of about 1,200 Starbucks partners in 54 Boston stores who celebrated the company’s 20th anniversary in Beantown. They marked the milestone with a community service project at Curtis Guild Elementary School involving Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. The volunteer effort involved creating 200 literacy kits with grade level books, landscaping the school yard and painting playground murals. One mural in oversized yellow letters proclaims the familiar phrase 'Boston Strong.'
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.
A freshman at Mendez High School in Los Angeles slumped in his chair, made no eye contact with anyone and said nothing during class. He was the student teachers couldn’t connect with, though they tried.
“I pulled him aside many times. He wouldn’t talk about what was going on in his life. One day I saw him start to tear up and I could tell we were starting to get to him,” said educator Kenn Campa. “There are no magic words that turn a student’s life around. It takes a steady drumbeat of support and encouragement.”
Campa is a program manager with City Year, an education-focused nonprofit organization that partners with public schools to help keep students on track and in school. That is a huge challenge in some communities. About 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The ninth grader at Mendez won’t be one of them.
“It took about a year for him to become more responsive to teachers. He started participating in a few of his classes and eventually all of his classes,” Campa recalled. “I was shocked when he ran up to my car, so excited, and started talking about wanting to get into computers and technology. It was a 180 degree change and it wasn’t just one person who made a difference, it was our entire team working every day for that result.”
To support City Year’s work in classrooms, Starbucks partners and customers take on service projects in schools from coast to coast.