Growing up in Southern California, Bobby Wagner never really felt that connected to any of the typical heroes that a kid might look up to, such as the star middle linebacker of an NFL team. So given the chance to interact with fans while also helping a good cause, Wagner was eager to strap on an apron and serve as a guest barista at a Seattle Starbucks location for an hour Tuesday afternoon.
“For myself, I wish I had something like this when I was growing up, someone to look up to show that your dreams are closer than you think they are as long as you work on them,” Wagner said between serving drinks to customer at the 1st & Walker Starbucks in Sodo. “Everything Coach Carroll is doing with A Better Seattle is great, I like supporting it.”
Wagner was one of seven Seahawks players spending his off day at an area Starbucks along with tight end Cooper Helfet, fullback Derrick Coleman, receiver Ricardo Lockette, defensive end Cliff Avril, linebacker Brock Coyle, and right tackle Garry Gilliam. The event was to raise money and awareness for A Better Seattle, Pete Carroll’s initiative that funds and supports the deployment of YMCA of Seattle's Alive & Free professional trained street outreach workers who serve at risk youth in South King County.
This year, Starbucks donated $75,000 to A Better Seattle, and since 2013 Starbucks and its customers have given $200,000 to A better Seattle.
“Both of our organizations are committed to helping youth in Seattle and youth in general,” said Adam Brotman, Starbucks’ chief digital officer. “It is a perfect fit, because you’ve got A Better Seattle, Coach Carroll’s foundation, which is committed not only to youth, but specifically to job-skills training, so you’ve got Bobby Wagner behind the bar, he’s doing a little training himself, we’ve actually had some Seahawks some to our corporate headquarters during the offseason and do some actual job shadowing of Starbucks employees, and some of Coach Carroll’s A Better Seattle Youth as part of their job skills training have done some job shadowing at our headquarters as well. So it’s just two great organizations committed to youth coming together.”
Added Carroll: "Over the past three years, Starbucks partnership with A Better Seattle and the YMCA's Alive & Free program has helped outreach workers continue their tremendous work with young people. We are grateful to Starbucks for their ongoing partnership in this effort and their extraordinary commitment to youth in our community."
Before he had coached a game in Seattle, Carroll was discussing the work he had done in Southern California with A Better L.A., an organization he co-founded in 2003 and without hesitation he said that work, not wins or titles or awards, would be the most important part of his legacy.
“A million times more important,” Carroll said in 2010. “It’s definitely more important. I wish I knew how to do more.”
Through A Better Seattle, Carroll has found a way to do more in his new hometown, partnering with the YMCA to help at risk Seattle and South King County.
“(The money donated by Starbucks) is super important, because in south King County we really don’t have a lot of resources, so our job is to connect the youth with resources,” said David Lujano, Alive & Free’s street outreach supervisor for South King County. “We’re trying to create our own resources through A Better Seattle and the Alive and Free Program.”
Lujano is from Southern California, so he was familiar with Carroll’s work in the community before A Better Seattle existed, and was eager to join the organization as soon as he had a chance. Through events like the ones taking place at Starbucks locations around the region on Tuesday, Lujano says more kids who need it will receive help.
“The population that we work with is really vulnerable,” he said. “Most of the kids we’re working with are out of school, they’re doing drugs, they’re in gangs, they’ve been impacted by violence, so our job is to connect with them and build meaningful relationships to connect them with resources. If a kid needs to get to school, if he needs bus tokens, we’re able to do that for them, or if they don’t have anything going on after school, we’ll try to get them into the YMCA to get a membership to do something productive instead of being on the streets getting caught up in other stuff.
As for Wagner’s first day on his new “job,” he did not actually prepare drinks, only serve them because, as he jokes, “I’ve got to work my way up. I’m starting at the bottom and working my way up.”
Starting from the bottom or not, Wagner gave himself a positive review, saying, “I think I’m killing it. I think Starbucks needs to hire me real fast.”
Several Seahawks participated in a Starbucks guest-barista program on the players' day off to benefit coach Pete Carroll's 'A Better Seattle' foundation.