Starbucks Employees Donate Coffee to Deployed Troops

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2007 - Coffee has always been an integral part of military life, and the recent coffee craze in America just whet the appetite of soldiers, sailors airmen and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Starbucks Coffee Company employees have responded by donating thousands of pounds of coffee and other items over the past several years.

"We kept getting cards and e-mails from troops deployed overseas saying how much they missed our coffee," said Julie Shelton, a consumer relations partner at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle. "It was great we were able to get support from the military."

That support has resulted in thousands of pounds of Starbucks coffee and tea getting to servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Marine Gen. Peter Pace traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan April 18-22, the back of his C-17 Globemaster 3 was filled with 5,500 pounds of coffee donated by Starbucks employees.

That delivery grew out of efforts by Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tony Forbes, who works in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to do something for his fellow servicemembers. "Back in 2003, I wanted to do something," Forbes said. "I started by asking local Starbucks in Fredericksburg (Va.) for donations."

His local Starbucks was able to donate 93 pounds of coffee, which he brought to Iraq as part of then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers' 2003 holiday trip to the region.

"It was an instant hit with the troops, and I received a lot of thank you notes and e-mails, and I thought maybe we could get bigger," he said.

Forbes contacted Shelton at Starbucks, and they began to work together. Starbucks partners receive a pound of coffee per week as an employee benefit known as "partner mark-out." Many employees choose to donate this coffee to the troops. Shelton was also able to collect tea, chai, T-shirts, cups, thermoses and many other items.

On the Pentagon end, Forbes contacted Marine Lt. Col. Jeb Bishop at the Joint Staff Logistics Office for help. For the December 2004 Chairman's Holiday Tour, Shelton gathered 12,000 pounds of Starbucks "product" at the coffee roasting plant in Kent, Wash. Bishop contacted EGL Trucking Company, which donated trucks, the cost of drivers and gas to ship the coffee and other items to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

At Andrews, airmen with the 89th Aerial Port packed the coffee on pallets and loaded it aboard the C-17. Since that trip, another 5,000 pounds went to the region in August 2005, 18,000 pounds in December 2005, and 1,100 in July 2006.

"We have 140,000 partners in the United States," Shelton said. "It's fair to say that most of them have been involved in this one way or another."

During last week's trip with Pace, Forbes also brought over $16,000 worth of electronics equipment donated by Gloria Firestone. Forbes delivered iPods, DVD players, Play Stations, jump drives, and media for the equipment to hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Forbes will soon get the chance to see the process from the other side: He deploys to Iraq sometime this summer.

Editor's Note: To find out about more individuals, groups and organizations that are helping support the troops, visit America Supports You directly connects military members to the support of the America people and offers a tool to the general public in their quest to find meaningful ways to support the military community.

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