Starbucks Service: Extreme Park Makeover 10 Years Later
Seattle’s Powell Barnett Park is serene on a sunny weekday morning. Parents, enjoying one of the season’s first warm days, watch over a handful of toddlers on the playground. Adults cut across the green expanse on their way to a bus stop.
When summer comes and schools let out, the 4.4 acre space will be filled with Seattle-area residents tossing Frisbees, playing hoops, picnicking and just enjoying a place considered one of the area’s most inviting parks.
Ten years ago, things were different. Maisha Barnett, founder and project manager of the Powell Barnett Legacy Project, was focused on transforming the grounds, which are named for her grandfather.
Powell S. Barnett was the son of a slave who came west to work in the coal mines in Roslyn, Washington, before settling in Seattle’s Central District in 1906. In Seattle, the community leader’s many achievements included breaking the color barrier for the musicians’ union and semipro baseball, and advocating for Americans of Japanese ancestry interned during World War II. Powell Barnett died in 1971, two years after the park was named in his honor by children who attended nearby Leschi Elementary School.
Maisha Barnett was a baby when her grandfather passed away, but she’s spent the last 14 years tending his remarkable legacy. In 2005, she submitted a grant request for $15,000 to Starbucks, seeking funds to perk up the park, which had fallen into disrepair. Her vision was to make it a safer, family-friendly point of pride for the community it serves.
Starbucks delivered above and beyond that amount. "And it wasn’t a grant. It was a gift," Barnett recalled.
800 Volunteers, 3,000 Volunteer Hours
Along with the cash, Starbucks contributed something more. Hundreds of company volunteers participated in what became known as the Ultimate Park Makeover.
The work party kicked off on May 12, 2006, with 800 volunteers providing more than 3,000 volunteer hours over the course of one week.
“During weekdays, it was mostly Starbucks partners who came to volunteer,” said Barnett. “They did the installation of all the playground equipment. They laid 70,000 square feet of sod. They did most of the major work – the heavy lifting of the whole renovation.”
Over the last decade, Powell Barnett Park has earned accolades from local and national travel writers. Today Barnett can gaze around the contoured grounds and vibrant playground and feel the park sustains her grandfather’s name in a way that would make him proud.
“We have busloads of kids brought in during the summer,” said John Barber, a longtime local resident who’s been involved in restoring and maintaining the park. “Kids from daycare facilities and various schools swarm in and enjoy it. It’s been beyond our greatest dreams.”
This coming weekend (April 30), the public is invited to a ceremony introducing a new fitness zone to the park.
Throughout the year, partners lead service projects and invite their fellow partners, customers and community members to volunteer with them. Since 2011, Starbucks has celebrated this daily commitment to improving local neighborhoods through the company’s Global Month of Service, where service projects are highlighted around the world during the month of April. For the past two years, Global Month of Service has focused on projects to support Opportunity Youth – young people ages 16-24 who are not in school or unemployed – alongside those that address other critical needs in local communities. Find volunteer projects near you through Starbucks Community Service Website.