Giving beans for those in military

November 13, 2007|By SUSAN REIMER

There's a basket in my favorite Annapolis Starbucks filled with an assortment of coffee beans from Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala, along with pound bags of bold flavors such as Caffe Verona and Sumatra.

And they all have messages written on them in black marker.

"God bless you."

"Merry Christmas."

And "Go Navy beat Army."

The coffee beans have been purchased by Starbucks customers and donated, to be sent to American troops overseas. Just about every bag of beans carries a message of love and thanks.

"My friend. This is just to let you know how proud I am of what you're doing."

"Stay safe - from a Marine Mom."

"You are fighting for freedom for people you will never meet. AWESOME!"

It is part of a grass-roots effort by a number of local Starbucks managers to do something for the soldiers, sailors and Marines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Africa.

Brenda Costello, manager of the Starbucks in the Westfield Annapolis mall, has a husband in the Navy and a brother-in-law who served in Iraq.

Felicia Minkey, who runs the Starbucks in Annapolis Harbour Center, had a woman at her church ask if there was a way to get coffee to her son's unit. "I told her, `You bet.'"

The store in Edgewater has a picture of a platoon that has already received its coffee, with its members raising their cups in a toast.

And Marc Tippin, manager of the Starbucks that is just a stone's throw from the gates of the Naval Academy, decided to collect coffee out of respect for the midshipmen and the officers who are his customer base.

"We are giving back to the community, and the military is a large part of our community," said Costello.

As a corporation, Starbucks has given about 100,000 pounds of coffee to the American Red Cross for servicemen overseas, according to company spokeswoman Trina Smith.

Starbucks stores also give their leftover stickers and cups to schoolteachers, collect overcoats for children and offer their spent coffee grounds to gardeners.

But this is different, and you can tell by the messages written on the bags.

"Semper Fi," a lot of them say, and "Thanks."

The messages will make you cry. "May God bless you. May he be your rock. May he prepare your heart for heaven and your hands for war."

But others will make you laugh out loud, reflecting as they do the caffeinated salesmanship of Starbucks employees: "Try this espresso roast. It is dark and caramelly-sweet. [signed] Chelsea, assistant manager."

There is a friendly competition between the stores to collect the most coffee. And some of the Starbucks employees, who get a pound of coffee a week as one of the perks of the job, so to speak, are donating their own share.

"We've got more than 100 pounds," said Tippin. "The guys in my store are hoping to match it."

Charles Sanders, district manager for Starbucks in Annapolis, Baltimore and Bowie, said his managers have collected about 250 pounds so far and are shooting for 500.

Tippin is collecting money, too. And with it he is purchasing bean grinders and coffee makers to send as well.

"One customer was so worried that the soldiers wouldn't have a way to grind the beans," said Minkey of the Harbour Center store. "I told her not to worry. We'd take care of it."

This is not a new idea. Starbucks stores in other parts of the country have collected coffee for troops as well. And the Army Times reported that a gunnery sergeant from Virginia has collected more than 20 tons, loading pallets of Starbucks coffee onto military transports.

But the efforts of the store managers in the Annapolis area reflect not only the long-standing relationship between soldiers, sailors and coffee, but between Annapolis and the members of the military at the Naval Academy, the National Security Administration, Fort Meade and in Washington.

And the managers say it is easy to ask their loyal clientele to donate and none have refused. "Not one negative word," said Costello.

The soldiers, for whom drowsiness during long hours of duty can be deadly, are grateful. The members of one unit, she said, were unexpectedly transferred to Alaska before they'd used all their coffee, so they dumped the non-essentials from their rucksacks so they would have room for bags of beans.

"One unit did send a note," she added. "It said not to bother with the decaf."

Note: To make sure your donation of a pound of coffee beans gets to the troops by Christmas, see the manager in your favorite Starbucks before Nov. 30.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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Read recent columns by Susan Reimer at baltimoresun.com/reimer

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