Full circle: Starbucks partner gives back to non-profit that helped her as a teen

When Angie was a teenager growing up near Minneapolis, Minnesota, she attended meetings throughout high school with an organization called TreeHouse, which is committed to bringing hope to teens by providing free transportation and meals, support groups, one-to-one mentoring and financial and college readiness.

She still vividly remembers one of the volunteers, Cheryl, who donated her time and money to help make delicious home-cooked meals for the kids, including – when Angie was 16 years old – a Thanksgiving spread with baked turkey, mac and cheese and pumpkin pie.

“All the things you see in movies … I was like, I finally understand what it means to be full on Thanksgiving,” says Angie, 23. “I’d never had a Thanksgiving up until that point, and I was just so taken aback. (The TreeHouse volunteers) were all happy, and they were talking about the things that they were thankful for.

“They told us that they were thankful for us, for being us.”

That validation, Angie says, helped her become who she is today: a Starbucks store manager in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a college student studying accounting, in position to give back to the organization that once helped her.

Before the pandemic, she volunteered during TreeHouse’s meal nights. During the ensuing shutdown, she reached out to kids through texts and Zoom, helping with issues like social isolation and distance learning.

“This organization was a vital part of my upbringing,” Angie says. “For the first time in my young life I had reliable adults, a meal to look forward to every Tuesday and Thursday and stability even through my very unstable life.”

Earlier this year, she helped TreeHouse secure a $1,000 Neighborhood Grant from The Starbucks Foundation, to help maintain its fleet of vans for transporting teens to and from programming and activities. It required filling out an in-house nomination form through the Starbucks partner (employee) hub portal. Angie wrote about her history with TreeHouse and why she thought TreeHouse deserved a grant.

“I just feel so happy they were able to get that money, and continue doing what they’re doing, because it’s awesome work,” Angie says. “I feel grateful that I am in a place now that I can, at least somewhat, help – a little bit, just a tiny bit for the amount that they were able to help me.”

Leveraging Starbucks values and resources

Since 2019, The Starbucks Foundation has awarded more than $10 million to more than 6,000 nonprofit and charitable organizations through its Neighborhood Grants initiative. All the organizations have been nominated by Starbucks partners. The program operates under the guiding principle that Starbucks partners know their communities best, and local impact is most meaningful when it starts with them.

The next opportunity for Starbucks partners to nominate organizations is during Season of Cheer from Dec. 5-18. The focus will be on organizations working on homelessness, hunger relief and supporting youth and families. Partners are encouraged to choose organizations they are actively engaged with.

For Angie, Starbucks was her first job; she started as a barista at age 16. She enjoyed talking to people and took pride in her work. Encouraged by one of her store managers, she applied for leadership positions and started taking classes towards her accounting degree through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which provides 100 percent tuition coverage at Arizona State University’s online program.

When she learned she could serve her community through the Neighborhood Grants program, she immediately thought about TreeHouse. The Twin Cities-based organization, which has a mission to “end hopelessness among teens,” creates safe spaces for young people and helps them take on barriers to employment and education. TreeHouse serves more than 3,000 teenagers at more than 50 sites across 10 states.

“I am passionate about this organization because I see the work that they have done with my old middle- and high school peers and myself,” Angie says. “We never felt alone or unheard.

“I feel like, I’ve only ever been on the receiving end. I want someone, like a little Angie somewhere out there, to get the same things I did … People were so selflessly willing to help me. I hope that I can do the same.”

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2024 Starbucks summer highlights