Starbucks partners bring coffee and comfort to COVID-19 front-line responders

Issaquah, Wash. – It is likely most of us will experience the moment when this global health crisis moves from something happening on the news to something happening down the street. For Kyle Hansen, that moment came March 16.

That’s the day the Starbucks store manager saw on the news someone at a nearby nursing and rehabilitation center had died of COVID-19 and seven other residents and staff members were sick. His heart sank. The following day, due to new guidance about not gathering in large groups, the store’s Coffee with a Cop event with the local police department was cancelled.

Things started feeling really heavy, really quickly. Kyle could feel the wave of fear, anxiety and uncertainty pass through his team and to be honest, it swept over him, too. 

“When it hits two miles from your store it feels very different than when its farther away,” he said. “I could see the weight of everything going on right now with the coronavirus, the weight of everything going on in the world right now, heavy on their shoulders.”

Kyle took a deep breath, went to the back room and pulled out the Starbucks operations handbook. He was surprised to find everything he was looking for on Page 18.

Handbook: “Now more than ever, the world needs places to come together with compassion and love.” (This part was in bold.)

“But we can’t gather as a community the way we normally would,” Kyle thought. He kept reading.

Handbook: “We provide consistency to create a sense of certainty in an uncertain world.”

“OK. If there was ever uncertainty in the world, that’s, like, literally right now,” he thought. “I wonder if, without putting anyone at risk, there’s still an opportunity to find a way to connect with people?”

This is the question he posed to his team, and they decided there was a way. If the cops couldn’t come to coffee, coffee would go to the cops … and the fire department. And city hall. And all of the nearby senior centers and nursing homes. The team prepared travelers full of coffee, each with personalized messages of thanks and encouragement, and Kyle delivered them.

“We decided to bring a little something to people serving our community – people who are experiencing even more uncertainty and unease than we are right now,” Kyle said. “We may have to get creative, but there’s always something small we can do to make a difference – to uplift the days of people who are going through a really hard time.”

It wasn’t long before Starbucks partners all over the world took hold of the same opportunity.  They’ve been serving and delivering coffee to hospitals, grocery stores, nursing homes and front-line workers of all kinds. Beginning today through May 3, any customer who identifies as a front-line responder to the COVID-19 outbreak will receive a tall brewed coffee (hot or iced) at no charge.

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