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Seahawks become Starbucks baristas to benefit A Better Seattle

Posted Oct 23, 2013

The Seahawks and Starbucks kicked off a week-long campaign on Wednesday to raise funds for A Better Seattle, and coach Pete Carroll and eight of his players got into the spirit by working behind the coffee counters.

Katie Klocke came to the her neighborhood Starbucks on Wednesday afternoon not knowing what to expect, but hoping for an encounter with a Seahawks player as part of the partnership between the Seattle-based coffee company and the city's NFL franchise.

Imagine her surprise, and excitement, when her drink was handed to her by Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and coach Pete Carroll thanked Klocke for her support.

"It's awesome," said Klocke, who was accompanied by her husband, Dan; their daughter, Stellamae; her sister, Marcy Rodman; and several dozen others who turned out. "We were really excited to see both of them, and it's hilarious to watch them working behind the counters."

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Especially the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Okung, who was manning the main counter as well as the overmatched drive-through window like a seasoned barista in his green Starbucks apron with a "Russell" name tag.

It was all part of the Seahawks' rally that broke out at the I-405 and 44th Avenue Starbucks in Renton on a day when Starbucks and the Seahawks announced a partnership that will benefit Carroll's A Better Seattle (ABS) and YMCA of Seattle's Alive & Free street outreach team.

Seven other players appeared at Starbucks throughout the greater Seattle area – nose tackle Brandon Mebane, punter Jon Ryan, linebacker and special teams captain Heath Farwell, kicker Steven Hauschka, snapper Clint Gresham, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and tight end Luke Willson.

Carroll and his players signed autographs, poised for pictures and served coffee and espresso drinks. Customers reveled in their close encounters of the coffee kind, and also made donations. But the real winners on this day, and throughout this campaign that continues until next Tuesday, are the at-risk youth who will be helped by the funds that are raised – starting with the initial grant of $50,000 by the Starbucks Foundation to launch the project. Contributions also can be made online at abetterseattle.com.

"Hopefully we'll raise a lot of money through the effort here and in the course of the week that we're together with Starbucks," Carroll said. "Starbucks has put up a big number – $50,000 – for us to kick start this thing. It's so important that we raise awareness of how we can help our communities become safer and stronger, and help our young people get a better shot at the things they can do in their lifetime.

"Starbucks gets it. They understand. They want to give back to the community. And they've recognized that we do as well. So it's a great partnership. This kind of event will give us a great awareness, so we're hoping we can continue to gain support."

The more money that is raised, the more outreach workers that can be put on the street.

"We can really have a world-class support system here for outreach workers and we're trying to show we can do that here," Carroll said.

It was Carroll's work through A Better Seattle that prompted Starbucks to join the effort to generate the motivation and resources for at-risk youth to take control of their lives and strive for better futures.

"Part of the underlying recognition on both sides was there's a real values match between the coach, A Better Seattle and Starbucks as a company," said Blair Taylor, Starbucks' chief community officer. "We are very, very interested in doing things that not just raise the revenues of our stores, but doing things in communities that are good for the communities – transforming lives, particularly the lives of young people. We realize that is something near and dear to coach's heart. And so together we started thinking about creative ways for us to engage in community partnerships. So we stepped up, and we were genuine in our support.

"Today is in the spirit of fun, but there's a serious side to this and that's what we're focused on."

Jovi Catena is the program manager for Alive & Free, and as Taylor put it, "They're actually implementing the program on the ground." So Catena knows how valuable each and every contribution can be.

"We have this amazing partnership with coach," Catena said. "But all the partnership really yield outreach workers working one-on-one with young people who are impacted by violence to help guide them to the serves and support systems that are out there waiting for them. It's just a matter of getting an outreach worker to connect them to that thing and build a relationship that's full of trust, that's nonjudgmental and culturally responsive."

Again, the more money, the more outreach workers.  "Money for workers is really what this is," she said.

Offered Carroll, "Our connection with the YMCA, which supports Alive & Free, the program that we support as well, is really a great connection showing that we can do it locally, we can do it with the corporate aspect and also our sports teams around the area."

And the fans of those teams.

"I'm proud that the Seahawks are such a part of our community," said Klocke, who was among those making donations to help ABS help others. "They do a wonderful job."

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