Standing Shoulder to Shoulder: Starbucks

By Daniel Morgenstern: HCC intern

Over 80% of Chinese students and visiting scholars will never see the inside of an American home. These individuals lack local knowledge, support systems, and most importantly, meaningful friendships with Americans. The Hospitality Center for Chinese (HCC) was founded to counteract these realities. There are over 3000 Chinese at the U of M alone. The task of establishing relationships with so many people is intimidating. HCC can feel like an island: the only shelter for visiting Chinese from an unforgiving world.

Thankfully this is not the case. HCC is one of a cohort of non-profits, churches, and commercial organizations that are dedicated to offering a friendly welcome to our Chinese friends. As an encouragement to the HCC family, we have decided to showcase our partner organizations. These organizations stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we pursue our cause.

Starbucks on the crossroads of Fairview Ave and County B Road in Roseville has been a dedicated supporter of our mission. They have regularly provided coffee for events as well as gift cards for giveaways.

When you walk in the store, the first thing you notice is the pleasant hum of activity. The small building is filled with young moms chatting, old veterans reading the newspaper, what looks to be a business meeting or two, and, of course, the friendly staff hard at work. The sun shining through the windows pairs up with the fresh smell of brewing coffee to give the place a warm glow. On the bulletin board, a thank you letter from HCC hangs next to ads for reading clubs and local businesses. The atmosphere epitomizes a “Third Place,” a term describing a space other than the home or the place of work. A place where people can meet and share ideas.

This quality extends to the employees. I had the pleasure of speaking with Derek, a manager and longtime employee of the branch. He has worked at the over-a-decade old store for 3 to 4 years and has been proud to watch it grow. When Derek arrived, the branch had been there for some time but hadn’t yet developed into the community hub I observed.

“We want the place to be welcoming,” said Derek, “to be a place where people can meet with not just us but each other.”

Clearly this goal is being met.

The thing that stuck out to me about Derek was his simple honesty. He wasn’t trying to sell me on the grand vision of Starbucks. Rather he was just a nice guy trying to accurately share with me why his team does what it does.

Derek told me that Starbucks seeks to support organizations like HCC that pour back into the community. “It’s what Starbucks is all about” said Derek. In regards to Chinese students, Derek expressed a hope that Starbucks could serve as a sort of bridge between China and America since the company is located in both countries. As a final statement Derek said “We are happy to help you feel at home in whatever way we can.”

Starbucks has been a blessing to HCC. They are a world-class partner in our mission. They share our values of hospitality and fostering a welcoming environment for our friends from across the seas. We are deeply grateful for their support and encouraged by their involvement. When we look at the friends on our side, the task in front of us seems less daunting. We can do it together.

Thanks for standing shoulder to shoulder with us Starbucks!

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