For as long as she can remember, Fiona Reed, has had a mission to give back. A passion instilled in her by her grandmother, a pastry chef, who despite having little to spare, would often bake cakes and bread to bring to families in need during the Second World War.
“We were very close and giving back to the community was something she had always done,” says Fiona.
All year long, Starbucks partners like Fiona, create inspiring moments, uplifting their communities and sparking joy in big and small ways. But, for the past several weeks, her district has been participating in Season of Cheer, a special time of year when partners across the country join forces to make spirits even brighter during the holidays.
“It is so needed in our communities. With the challenges of homelessness, hunger, poverty and loneliness, it is so important we spread hope and cheer wherever we can.” says Fiona.
Over the years, Fiona has connected with many local charities, including seniors’ organizations like the Coleman Care Centre and Senior’s Wish Association, to help uplift the city’s most vulnerable citizens, which through the pandemic has been needed more than ever.
Armed with coffee, hot chocolate, dozens of homemade gingerbread cookies, and a small team of partners, Fiona spent one afternoon this month at the Coleman Care Centre, decorating cookies with seniors.
A relationship that began in 2019 when Fiona and a few Starbucks partners visited the centre to enjoy coffee and sing Christmas carols with the residents, the residents at the Coleman Care Centre now look forward to visits from their local friends at Starbucks. “This past summer, when the residents heard that Starbucks partners were coming in to spend more time with them, they were so excited to find out what activities we would be doing,” says Karen Andrews, Director of Recreation, Coleman Care Centre. “The smiles I see on both the partners and residents faces often brings me to tears. Community partners coming in and spending time with the residents in a meaningful way is truly valuable, and the residents reminisce for days after the fun they had interacting with such lovely people.”
Karen describes the impact as valuable and everlasting, and one that it goes both ways. “The residents are able to pass on valuable wisdom through conversation with the partners,” she says. “We are always grateful for any type of donation that is provided to the residents, but the donation of one’s time, you just can’t put a value on that.”
For the Senior’s Wish Association, the team helped put together over a thousand bags over the past few years for the adopt a senior program for the holidays, this year, donating 150 packages of cookies to include in the care packages. This year, store managers met with senior volunteers and helped wrap gifts and to celebrate the seniors who volunteer with the organization.
"Once, in a very long while, there is someone that stands out in their support of the community. Fiona, is that community champion. Not only has she consistently answered our calls for help, be it manpower, financial or product donations or even a space to host a birthday surprise for a 91- year old man, but she comes up with her own innovative ways to help. Her dedication and commitment to several causes, not just Senior Wish Association, is an inspiration to the partners that work in her store.”
Suzanne Watson, Communications Director, Senior’s Wish Association
A teacher and coach at heart, with two children in their 20s, Fiona describes what it means to work with partners around the same age as her children and why she works to instill a passion for community with each one she connects with.
“What better way to continue that inspiration than through this next set of leaders. When I'm a senior citizen years from now, they're going to be the leaders in my place. I want them to have that foundation to keep going, to support the community and non-profit groups locally and globally,” says Fiona.
To encourage the partners in her store, the team hosts daily coffee tasting meetings where partners have the opportunity to introduce a community group, who they serve and how the team can help now or in the future.
“On several occasions the partners have asked me about what's happening with Senior Wish and how our Christmas campaign has been going. This interest and enthusiasm is due to Fiona and her leadership. We can't thank her enough, not only for her ongoing support but for inspiring a new generation of volunteers and community minded individuals," says Suzanne.
Working with her team and district, Fiona plans many more ways to give back through Season of Cheer and year-round, continuing to live up to her mission of giving back at Starbucks.
“I had always joked with friends that I just wanted to be a barista at Starbucks, they look like they have so much fun, and they get to talk to people,” Fiona recalls. But, it was the company’s mission, To inspire and nurture the human spirit - one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time, that most attracted her to the company “After researching more about the company’s community and global initiatives like C.A.F.E. practices, work with women in coffee and tea growing regions around the world, and more, I knew that this is where I wanted to be.”
“I want to make sure that somebody's day is better. Somebody's life is better. I want to make sure that I have my eyes and ears open so I can see and hear what's going on in my community and around the world. And I want to inspire others around me to be that change as well.”