When the staff at a Starbucks in the English town of Basildon presented two Starbucks city mugs to Andrew Ward late last year, it wasn’t just about adding to the regular customer’s abundant collection. They were also saying thank you for his role in bringing a remarkable partner (employee) to their store.
Ward (pictured below), from Shoeburyness in the county of Essex, has accumulated 415 Starbucks mugs in his world travels. When he’s not building and caring for his collection, Ward is a life coach who supports young adults with learning disabilities by providing guidance and training them in life and work skills.
In 2012, Ward began working with Kieran Neary (pictured below), a young man who is autistic and has learning disabilities. An accomplished athlete who earned three aquatic medals at the 2014 Special Olympics in Belgium, Neary needed support developing his confidence and life skills. To that end, Ward began bringing him to his favorite Starbucks.
“Starbucks is a place where I go to work, to socialize and to relax,” Ward explained. “It offers my clients the environment to learn some of the life skills that we all take for granted.”
Becoming Part of the Team
The Basildon Starbucks, however, became more than just a place to visit for Neary. First employed at the store through a work placement program, he became a permanent part-time partner four years ago. Store manager Debbie Lane, who has worked with young adults with disabilities in the past, became another mentor to Neary, who has become a confident and popular figure around the store. These days, he chats with customers and takes pleasure in making Starbucks® Frappuccino blended beverages.
Ward remains a regular at Neary’s store and his passion for accumulating Starbucks city mugs prompted Starbucks to add a few more to his wide-ranging collection at a ceremony that included Neary and his parents.
“We wanted to celebrate the fantastic work he does in the community and thank him for the support he offers our partner Kieran,” said Lane. “His passion for helping others is an inspiration for us all.”