Starbucks Gives over 1 Million Cups of Free Coffee to Front-Line Responders in Canada and the U.S. (and Counting)

Starbucks cups

Starbucks partners have served more than 1 million cups of free coffee to first responders and front-line health care workers during the COVID-19 outbreak, the company announced Thursday.

Since March 25, Starbucks has been giving out free tall brewed (hot or iced) coffees to first responders and front-line health care workers and will continue to do so through the end of May.  

For many of those working long hours caring for those who are sick or in need, a cup of coffee can represent a bright spot in their day and give them a much-needed boost, some say.

Behind each cup of coffee served are Starbucks partners across Canada and the United States committed to helping show their support and admiration to those on the front lines, whether that means delivering coffee to those who need it, writing notes of encouragement to accompany each order and more. Here are some of their stories:

A small act of kindness for long-term care facilities

Coffee Traveller

Long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable at this time, but the nurses who work there can feel overlooked. To ensure they felt taken care of, Starbucks store manager Maria Gaw, of Airdrie, Alberta, organized a delivery of coffee travelers to two local long-term homes.

Maria’s partner, Kayla Noordhof, is training to be a health care aide and helped her contact the facilities to ensure they would accept the token of appreciation. One of the nurses she got in touch with broke down crying when she called. 

“It’s moments like this that make me proud to be a partner,” Gaw says. “The nurse was so appreciative of the kind gesture. She was grateful that we remembered that they were working just as hard (if not harder) as our hospital nurses.” 

Since then, Gaw and her Starbucks team have continued donating coffee at least once a week “just to keep our nurses happy and show that we care.”

Special delivery to Washington D.C. police stations

For the last 18 months, Adam Modzel has been strengthening the relationship between Starbucks and local police departments by hosting 100 “Coffee with a Cop” events at Starbucks stores, helping secure a grant to the Washington D.C. Police Foundation, and outreach efforts on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

When the pandemic hit, Modzel, Starbucks regional director in Washington D.C., had to shut down 98 out of 100 stores he supervises.

Regardless, he made a commitment to keep that work going. Starbucks district managers, store managers and store partners have volunteered to brew and deliver coffee to every single D.C. Police station every afternoon for roll call. Fifty cups of coffee for each of the 11 stations. Every single day for the last four weeks.

“I’m always inspired by our partners, but this is next level,” Modzel says. “They're choosing every day to show up to serve their customers and their communities. We’ve had hundreds of partners do that. It shows how extraordinary our people are.”

Connecting with the community

Starbucks markouts

One of the perks of being a Starbucks partner is having the opportunity to take home a free pound of coffee or one box of tea as a markout each week. Taking advantage of this perk, two Starbucks stores in West Kelowna, B.C. decided to collect their markouts and donate them to emergency service workers.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for ALL district partners to come together to recognize and thank front-line responders,” said store manager Shannon LeBlanc. “It allows partners from closed stores and those in quarantine to stay connected to our community as well!”

Altogether, the Starbucks partners donated eight bags of goodies to local fire departments, ambulance attendants, and the Kelowna General Hospital. Each bag was filled with three pounds of coffee, one box of tea and one box of Starbucks® VIA® Instant® coffee.

“We are always looking for ways to continue recognizing front-line responders,” added LeBlanc.

On call for first responders

Ambulances and other first-responder vehicles often don’t fit through standard drive-thru lanes, and even if they do, they don’t want to be stuck in line in case an emergency arises.

That’s why Thomas Winklebeck, Starbucks store manager in Skokie, Ill., has handed out his personal cell phone number to the Skokie Fire Department. They call him direct, so he can walk out to the parking lot or the front of the store and deliver drinks to first responders and “service those that put their life on the line for all of us on a daily basis.”

“Four years ago I had open heart surgery and by the grace of god, I was given a second chance,” Winklebeck says. “From that day forward I always said every day I’m gonna be the best possible person I can be today.”

Creating normalcy in an abnormal time

Thanks to a family connection, a Starbucks team in Vaughan, Ont. was able to deliver a big container of coffee to their regional paramedic department.

Starbucks shift supervisor Genevie Acebedo’s brother works for the logistics team at the department. She helped deliver the coffee and a short note of encouragement on behalf of her Starbucks store.

“Just like our Starbucks mission, we believe that through a simple cup of coffee we can show our support to inspire those who continue to serve our community,” said Acebedo’s store manager, Bettina Ann Relopez. “We want to be a reminder to our front-line workers that even though these times are difficult, we will be here to create that sense of normalcy for them.” 

Supporting front-line responders in the community has become very important to Relopez’s team during the pandemic. Each week, the Starbucks partners deliver coffee to a different institution to show their care and appreciation.

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