News | West Harlem

Starbucks partnership with Abyssinian raises $110K

One year and thousands of cups of coffee later, the partnership between Starbucks and Harlem nonprofit Abyssinian Development Corporation has exceeded its promised donations to the community.

In the 12 months since Starbucks started donating five cents for every cup of coffee sold at its store on Lenox Avenue and 125th Street, it has raised $110,000, beating its original goal by $10,000.

Cecilia Carter, Starbucks’ vice president of global diversity, community and civic affairs, said the partnership reflects the corporation’s long-term commitment to supporting Harlem. The Lenox store was the first to open in the neighborhood, in 1999.

“When we considered deepening our relationship and commitment to Harlem, we were looking for organizations that used a holistic approach to creating and supporting an uprising neighborhood,” Carter said.

The donations primarily support Abyssinian’s efforts to help local students, through programs such as Head Start and GED and high school diploma training, affordable housing construction projects, and job skills training. The chain also funds a grant program that encourages student leadership.

The grant program encourages target students—some of whom attend schools without a student government—to act on “what things they think they can change within their schools,” said Damian Waugh, Starbucks’ New York district manager.

“One of our priorities is supporting the youth of the communities where we live and work,” Waugh said.

In addition to the donations to Abyssinian, Starbucks has also provided career guidance to students, including mock interview workshops, Waugh said. It has even hired some qualified students.

“We set up shop just as if we were actually interviewing candidates, and we give them real-live feedback,” Waugh said. “If there are candidates that are available and we are in need, we would actually hire them as well.”

Dupe Ajayi, Abyssinian’s director of marketing and external affairs, said that students in the youth programs “highly admire this partnership and what it has meant to them in growing in their career,” citing a meeting with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as a highlight.

The Lenox store is one of three Starbucks “community stores” nationally, which Carter said aim to support their neighborhood through a partnership with an existing organization.

Starbucks hosts monthly events centered on Abyssinian’s core values, such as civic engagement, gratitude, and service. “The community store was designed as a hub for the community to know about what it is that’s going on that impacts their world,” Ajayi said. October’s event, held at the Morningside Heights location to appeal to college students, was a presentation with Vote Everywhere to encourage civic engagement.

Although Starbucks and Abyssinian originally envisioned a one-year partnership, organizers expect the program to last longer. They have planned monthly events through January, when Ajayi hopes to have a service-based event in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“There’s so much coming down the pipe from this partnership that’s measurable and actionable,” Ajayi said.

avantika.kumar@columbiaspectator.com

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