06/15/2012 09:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Individual Acts Result in Impressive Impact -- Giving Back One Community at a Time

This April, a group of local volunteers installed insulation in the walls of a home that previously wasn't holding heat properly in Chicago's "comeback" neighborhood of Englewood. Working in tandem, with masks and gloves on, the group of previously untrained community members made a significant impact for three families with dilapidated homes in partnership with Rebuild Chicago. Each year Rebuild Chicago identifies local residents who need help making their homes livable while struggling to make ends meet in today's economy. That day the volunteers were wearing green T-shirts as part of Starbucks Global Month of Service.

I believe that when people help others a profound effect takes place -- a chain reaction of social good. At Starbucks we believe we have the responsibility and the power to help kickstart that chain reaction. That belief is what attracted me to move across the country from New York to work for Starbucks two years ago. Companies like Starbucks can and should inspire customers and employees (we call ours "partners") to get involved at the local level. I believe that is where the chain reaction takes place -- when individuals work together in communities around the world, creating a wave of positive results that in turn adds up to significant impact.

For me, it's important to recognize that it's not just about giving; it's about listening to the needs of the community when it comes to identifying how to help. Now, more than ever, communities are relying on individuals and companies to step up where the government may be falling short due to budget cuts and spending freezes. Every community has its own set of needs. This year we've seen examples of acting on these needs across the country -- from restoring a flooded field in Nashville by planting an urban farm to the group of baristas who formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit to address homelessness in Fredricksburg, Va. Our partners and customers are unwilling to be bystanders when their community is in need and it part of our job to support them in this.

People are hungry to get involved, but they often see barriers -- from time constraints to financial concerns to just not knowing where to start. What we've learned is that the solution lies in providing a variety of opportunities that give volunteers many ways to get involved while also ensuring that it feels personal and relevant. We do that by partnering with a vast array of nonprofits doing good work locally around the world. These nonprofits are the foot soldiers that are best equipped to identify and address the unique needs of the communities we serve. Additionally, we provide opportunities online and in our stores to participate in community service all year long -- either through a donation that goes to create and sustain American jobs or by giving customers the chance to vote for the local nonprofit that serves their neighborhood best.

I want to take a moment to thank those of you who carved out time to participate in community service this year -- whether wearing a green shirt or not. I want to thank you, but also to challenge you to maintain (or develop) an ongoing journey of service in your life. Once you take that step, what you'll learn is that reaching out to better your surroundings results in more than thriving communities -- it has the power to change the way we interact with each other and ultimately how we see ourselves.