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Lakewood Starbucks first community store, supports veterans

Lakewood store and Goodwill help veterans

Rikki Long, whose fiancé serves at McChord Field, is a partner at the Starbucks community store that is working with the Goodwill's Operation: Goodjobs to help area veterans. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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For some, a sense of community began on the deck of the Pequod.

A fictitious 19th century Nantucket whaling ship, it is the stage on which Herman Melville tells the story of Captain Ahab's pursuit of Moby-Dick, a great white whale.

Serving as chief mate of the Pequod is Starbuck, a thoughtful and intellectually gifted Quaker.

Starbuck the sailor personifies a sense of service above self much like the Starbucks Coffee Company does today.

Today, the world's largest coffee company is committed to sharing its revenues in a responsible manner to foster a sense of community in the neighborhoods where it has stores.

"Over the next five years we plan on opening 50 ‘community stores' in communities around the world," Rodney Hines, Starbucks' director of community involvement, said as we sat in a local Starbucks.

"We are uberlocal; we are putting our community stores in the backyards of those we serve."

An organization with nearly 200,000 partners (employees) worldwide, Starbucks anticipates growth toward a 500,000 global workforce.

Closer to home, five of these community stores will be located at or near joint base locations to help fund local non-profit programs that support veterans re-entering the workforce.

The first two of these community stores are located in San Antonio, Texas and Lakewood, Wash.  Three more stores will open in the future.

>>> Lakewood starbucks at Highway 512 and South Tacoma Way. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

As to the Lakewood Starbucks community store, it is located at 10314 South Tacoma Way near Highway 512.

Talk about being on deck to do great deal of good.

This year more than 8,500 service members will transition out of the military through Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and about 3,500 are settling in the Puget Sound area.

"This demographic of veterans represents one of the most underutilized talent pools in our country," former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, now a Starbucks director, said in a press release.

Moreover, the coffee company is building a pipeline of talent focused on veterans and active duty spouses, including an infrastructure to support at least 10,000 hires of veterans over the next five years.

"We are seeking individuals with experience in everything from leading teams to building and managing complex, global supply chains," Howard Schultz, Starbucks' chief executive, said in a press release.

In filling the sails of employment for veterans and their spouses, Starbucks has partnered with local non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, to help veterans transition into the workforce.

The idea is that Starbucks' community stores will share revenue by donating 10 to 15 cents from every transaction, with a minimum annual gift of $100,000 to a local NGO.

Here in the JBLM area, Starbucks has joined with base officials and the Tacoma Goodwill in Operation: Goodjobs, which aims to help Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans transition from military life to a successful civilian life.

"Thanks to Starbucks, we can extend the reach and depth of our Operation: Goodjobs program for area veterans and their families," wrote George White, public relations and communications for the Tacoma Goodwill, in an email.

"The community store concept is a huge resource for the regional effort to serve transitioning soldiers, and having a portion of that store's revenue dedicated to Operation: Goodjobs provides a steady stream of support."

White pointed out that Operation: Goodjobs will reach more than 500 former service members next year with the expectation of placing 350 of those in jobs.

Starbucks' partners are on board with the concept.

"Starbucks is reaching out to the community," said partner Derrick Monroy, whose spouse is an Army Reservist, during a busy morning at the Lakewood store.

"This program is inspiring; Operation: Goodjobs helps vets transition to civilian life and find jobs."

Monroy also pointed out that the Tacoma Goodwill and the Lakewood Starbucks store have worked together to understand what each offers the community.

"It is a fantastic union, and it's great to recognize the uniformed members and their spouses," said Rikki Long, a shift supervisor at the Lakewood store and whose fiancé serves at McChord Field.

And like Melville's Starbuck, there is a moral to this partnership.

"We have a model of good community service that we hope other businesses will adopt," Hines explained.

"This is an inspiring program."

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