If you knew me well, you would know that I like to enjoy a good latte. For this, I DO NOT go to Starbucks. I prefer the smaller, local coffee shops that offer stronger coffee for a lower price. Although I do not frequent Starbucks, I still have a connection to this coffee giant – my younger sister, Elaine, works there part-time. Because of this, I enjoy the perks that she has as an employee, which is a pound of free coffee each week that I can brew at home to my liking. It is also through this connection that this past weekend we (David included) participated in one of the many community volunteer events organized by Starbucks worldwide. This particular event involved making improvements to the Strathcona Community Centre, which is in a less privileged neighbourhood in East Vancouver.
The day began bright and early, 8:30am to be exact. We were treated to coffee and pastries and some sunshine for dragging ourselves out of our warm beds. Some of us spent the pre-festivities getting to know our neighbourhood baristas…..
There was a good showing of volunteers, about a few hundred. So many in fact that most of the day we were working elbow to elbow. Starbucks employees, their friends and family and customers came from as far as Chilliwack, Nanaimo and Kamloops to participate.
We were divided into 4 large groups, each tasked in various projects that involved cleaning and painting the interior of the community centre, building planters for vegetable gardens and sandboxes for the pre-schoolers and daycare, uprooting plants and weeds, preparing soil for a new pumpkin patch and making walkways and benches, just to name a few. No small task (vacuuming, sweeping and sharpening pencils for example) was left undone.
For David, Elaine and I, the day involved a bit of chaos, a lot of sweat and getting our hands and in my case, knees, dirty. There was a lot of shoveling and pushing dirt, hammering and standing on wood (don’t ask). This day also involved a number of firsts for me: first time using a trowel and shovel, first time planting and first time being chastised by a child for using fabric scissors to cut plastic tubing.
All in all, it was a good day. Although my views on the quality of their beverages have not changed, I do see the company in a different light.And the best part of a hard day’s work, second to making a contribution to the community? Working up an appetite for lunch.
Phnom Penh fried chicken wings