A cup beyond measure

‘Cup of Joe for a Joe’ gives soldiers a jolt of caffeine and spirit

akennedy@ledger-enquirer.comMay 29, 2010 

The java’s flowing freely to U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the Green Beans Coffee Co.’s “Cup of Joe for a Joe” program, coffee and personal messages are being delivered to give thanks for military personnel, in all branches.

The Green Beans Coffee Co. has delivered more than 125,000 cups of fresh-brewed, organic coffee to armed services personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to the thousands of Americans who have so far participated in the company’s “Cup of Joe for a Joe” program. It launched early last year.

Most of Green Beans Coffee’s 70-plus cafes are located on American military bases in seven countries, including the U.S., and more than half are in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many are situated on forward operating bases, places of extreme danger and where there are few amenities for the troops.

Under the “Cup of Joe” program — or “COJ” as the troops call it — anyone with $2 to spare can buy a cup of super-premium, organic coffee for a soldier deployed on or near a U.S. military base in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). What’s also possible: The purchaser can send a personal note of thanks along with the coffee. As the troops are getting re-caffeinated, they can read the notes of appreciation.

Both soldier and sender can sign up for orders online.

Angela Stillwell, a financial planner from Pine Mountain, has good friends who are in the military. Some friends from her high school class in Metter, Ga., went on to the military academies and then were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

She began buying coffee through the program last year and always buys 30 cups at a time to reach a lot of people. She has received lots of thank you e-mails in return. For those who might question how a cup of coffee could make an impact, she said: “Every time I send something, I receive lots of letters. It means a lot to them. They’re in the desert so there are no real comforts there.

“I love the Cup of Joe for a Joe program. It’s an easy way to let a few people know that we, here at home, are thinking about them and their families,” Stillwell added. “When I send my note and say thanks, I also say thanks to their families. They always tell me in their e-mails that they really appreciate that.”

Another woman, who lives in California, has started her own exchange: She bakes four batches of cookies every night to send to her newfound military friends in Afghanistan.

In addition, words of appreciation from soldiers are posted on the company’s Web site as well as its Facebook page.

“The expressions of thanks in both directions are heartwarming and often poignant,” Jason Araghi, the company’s co-founder, said in a statement. “It’s been particularly gratifying to see how such a small gesture has meant so much not only to the servicemen and women, but to the givers as well.”

Jason Araghi and his brother, Jon, founded the company after living in Saudi Arabia. In 1996, they built the first gourmet coffeehouses in that country and were the first American food company to go to Afghanistan after 9/11. They later established the company in Iraq.

From Kirkuk, Iraq, a soldier wrote: “Trust me, it’s not insignificant. It’s a big morale booster to receive something like this — you don’t even realize.”

Another, stationed in Baghdad, said: “As simple as it seems, a cup of coffee and a nice note go a very long way to making it a little less hard to be so far away from our homes and families.”

Green Beans Coffee Company was founded in 1996. In addition to this program, a portion of every sale is donated to one of three organizations that help military families: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Soldiers’ Angels and Children of the Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund.

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