COFFEE SERVICE CORNER: Giving Back – Paying it Forward

For a bit more than 30 years working in businesses related to coffee at different levels, my personal benevolent efforts have been focused on associations and enterprises nearest the brewer and the cup. I have operated as a distributor, manufacturer, consultant, and an operator. Those companies for whom I have served, as well as the Shea clan, have made a comfortable living doing our work at the far end of the coffee supply chain.

At a relatively young age, I chose to support a number of regional and national trade associations by way of trade show committee involvement, board of director participation, and a number of speaking and writing engagements. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did this for no charge other than while writing articles for Vending & OCS Magazine and my dear friend, the late Ben Ginsberg. Ben insisted on paying me $200 per article in order to “keep his books straight,” and so that I might take my wife, Charlotte, out for a proper meal. I should note that Ben was the ultimate giver.

Ben served at innumerable national and regional trade shows and meetings as a speaker, moderator, and on-site knowledge source for anyone willing to pull up a chair in his booth or catch him at a reception.

Ben Ginsberg – An iconic mentor for many.
Ben Ginsberg photo copyEarly on, I provided none of my time and giving with any conscious effort to give back to an industry, company, or group. It simply happened naturally. A number of my friends and cohorts participated also, and participating gave us a sense of pleasure. I do suspect that some my motivation was instilled by my maternal grandmother, Annie Hall. That is right, Annie Hall was her name and I doubt she ever met Woody Allen. “Mamie,” as we called her, frequently reminded my siblings and me to “just leave a little more than you take.” A mid-southerner, Mamie had a number of country witticisms that were, at the same time, both amusing and wise. I miss Mamie and Ben.

“Just leave a little more than you take.”
– Annie Jaudon Hall

As I matured and the commodity of time became growingly scarce, I did make a conscious effort to allocate a portion of my time to the industry that had meant, and still means, so much to me.

At the Origin of our Supply Chain – Grounds for Health
As my role at DS Services has evolved, I have become active in multiple trade associations and more diverse industry-facing activities. While at the Specialty Coffee Association show in Seattle recently, I had the opportunity to be exposed to a number of benevolent efforts taking place at both a domestic and international level. I had heard of Rainforest Alliance, The Coffee Trust, Grower’s First, and a number of other worthwhile projects and organizations that are striving to make a difference. Many of whom are mentioned throughout this issue. However, at the show I was introduced to an organization, with which I was not familiar, Grounds for Health.

I attended the Grounds for Health reception. While there, I witnessed a first-hand recap of the processes involved and benefits provided in this group’s fight against cervical cancer in the coffee growing regions of the world. The presentation jolted me in a profound way. I was never lacking in being provided information concerning the multiple plights of the families in coffee’s countries of origin. I simply opted not to learn more nor become a solution participant. That has now changed.

Upon my return from Seattle, I promptly created an internal presentation on Grounds for Health to my company, DS Services. DSS CEO, Tom Harrington, has long been an advocate for such initiatives, including our company’s efforts with ATHENA, a water brand created to fight breast cancer. I was pleased, but not surprised, when within a few days a commitment was made to support Grounds for Health at a meaningful level.

I encourage all of you to learn more about this organization and the many others that work hard to make a real difference. It certainly feels good to give but beyond that, it is our multiple industries’ responsibility to share with those at the coffee supply chain origins…. namely the people who grow and pick the coffee.

In my subsequent travels to Southern California, I also had occasion to meet the founders of Coffee Cares and Profits4Purpose. These two intertwined companies have developed some exciting, intuitive software that allows companies to measure, manage, and grow their charitable efforts.

Driving Corporate Profits and Giving Back – Not Mutually Exclusive
Coffee Care’s founder, Karen Cebreros, and the Profits4Purpose leadership team took the time to illustrate how their program works and the benefits that it can provide. My most significant takeaways were:

•    Giving and volunteering can grow exponentially if measured, managed, and allowed to be a pleasurable, visible journey. Some of the tactics appear to be quite fun, while taking advantage of our natural tendencies to compete.
•    Doing the right things and being able to chronicle the same and then share this story with your employees, shareholders, and industry is a good thing.
•    Industry collaboration will allow us to leverage our impact in areas of social and environmental impact.
•    My coffee and water service industry can do more.
•    Executed with an appropriate amount of energy and diligence, the expense associated with this program should be more than self-funded by the measurable benefits, such as tax breaks and marketing assets.

The options for giving back are many. Whether your choice is to give with time or dollars to your industry, a favorite charity or civic event, just give. And, when you do your research and consider the options, take time to look upstream on the supply chain in our world of coffee. There is a need at origin.

$1,000 for your favorite organization
In this month’s issue, you will find links to more than thirty charitable associations, groups, or projects. For the link that gets the most hits, CoffeeTalk’s Kerri Goodman will make a donation of $1,000 to that project. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to support your favorite organization.

As you plan your industry meetings for the remainder of 2014, know that NAMA’s Coffee, Tea, and Water Show will be in Dallas, November 10th through the 13th. There promises to be robust educational venues and opportunities. One session that I will have the privilege of moderating will explore the coffee supply chain at origin and the relevance to the Coffee Service Industry.

Until next time,

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