At Dillanos Coffee, a child in need is supported in the name of every employee
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
At some jobs, employees are assigned lockers or desks on their first day of work. At Dillanos Coffee Roasters, however, employees are given the name of a child in a country thousands of miles away. That’s because Dillanos, a coffee-roasting company based in Sumner, Wash., participates in ChildFund, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in poverty-stricken countries. ChildFund connects children to donors through sponsorships, and the money that donors give goes to building structures and funding projects that directly affect their sponsored child. Sponsors who are matched with young children, for example, might see their donations go to early childhood nutrition and primary education. In this way, donors can see firsthand how their contributions affect the child that they sponsor.
This direct relationship is what attracted Chris Heyer and David Morris, co-owners of Dillanos, to ChildFund in the first place. In 1999, Heyer and Morris saw a television commercial for ChildFund, and decided to sponsor one child for each of the five employees at the then seven-year-old company. Now Dillanos is over 20 years old, and to date has sponsored 66 children ”a number that continues to grow as the company expands.
œOver 75 percent of our sponsored children are from coffee-growing regions, said Melissa Huston, culture and community relations manager at Dillanos, which makes the sponsorship program especially meaningful for its employees. Along with the contributions given by the company, many employees donate beyond what Dillanos pledges, especially during the holidays. œEvery employee has the opportunity to write their child as often as they like,” Huston continues. “Typically employees receive a return letter from their child once or twice a month. These letters include photos, art, and sometimes bracelets that the child has created. Periodically, employees come together and share pictures and letters from the children they sponsor, and one wall located by a staff meeting room is dedicated to displaying pictures of the sponsored kids.
It makes sense that a company like Dillanos would be attracted to the goals of ChildFund. Like ChildFund, Dillanos focuses on helping people, and encourages employees to have fun and make connections with their customers. Dillanos lists eleven core values that shape the company, and many of them touch on the importance of collaboration, kindness, and mutual respect for coworkers and customers alike. Perhaps this is why many of Dillanos employees have been with the company for years, and why Dillanos has partners in all 50 states, notably Cherry Street Coffee House, where 2014 United States Barista Champion Laila Ghambari serves as director of education.
Dillanos doesn’t plan on stopping at letter writing. œWe are hoping next year that we can send staff to meet their children in person with the ChildFund team and further the relationship with our sponsored children, Huston says. For Dillanos employees, engagement with the coffee community extends far beyond the café setting. Employees get to actively participate in shaping the lives of children all around the world and develop meaningful connections with these children through longlasting and continuous support.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Rodriguez thought that she’d take a break from teaching middle school science and putz around in a coffee shop for a few months. She quickly found out that she’s much better at explaining latte art than algebra, and has been making and teaching people about coffee at shops all over the country ever since. She recently moved from New York City to San Francisco, where she works at Sightglass Coffee. At any given time, she’s probably doing a crossword puzzle or making her friends watch the movie, Clue.