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URBAN – Severe weather on Thursday marred weekend plans for many, with power and Internet outages still being reported in areas of east central Illinois.
What didn’t spoil was a copious supply of milk, cream, and frozen breakfast sandwiches at the Starbucks on the corner of Springfield and Mattis Avenues in Champaign.
This is due to the shop’s generous donation to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in St. Patrick’s, which came shortly after realizing its power would likely run out for the long haul.
“It was a really bright spot,” said pantry manager Sally Czapar.
The shop was unable to open on Friday due to a lack of electricity; it was the only CU Starbucks without power from about 3pm on a Thursday.
Shift manager Dot Alonzo left for the day before the storms passed Thursday afternoon. About two hours after the store lost power, other store employees called her when it became apparent a fix was needed.
After calling around and trying to reach a few different places in town, she was able to get through to the pantry and have the items hauled across town. The donation included nearly 100 liters of milk and hundreds of microwaveable breakfast items.
“That’s something Starbucks takes great pride in, not having a lot of waste,” Alonzo said.
“Anytime we can give to someone instead of throwing something away, it is always preferable. As a company and as a person, something I look forward to doing is helping someone if possible.”
It was an easy decision for Czapar, who was at home, who had also lost power, to green light the donation.
“I didn’t get too involved in this particular action, except to give permission for it to happen,” Czapar said. “And to come in later because we had no electricity and we checked it.”
The donation — which has left Starbucks with no perishables to worry about until power returns — will allow the pantry to throw a few new items into the mix.
“A little half-and-half and a little whipped cream, which we’ll just put on as a luxury,” Czapar said.
“(There are) people who can’t afford stuff like that, so it’s not like ‘here’s your whipped cream. He’s like, would you like some whipped cream this week?’”
As for Starbucks’ upcoming shipments of items like lattes? They are just waiting until the power comes back.
It was conceivable at the onset of the weather event that Czapar would be in the position Alonzo was.
“I was going to be on Dot’s side trying to get rid of 320 pounds of pork loin and some milk we already bought,” Czapar said.
“I had started thinking, where could we send this, who is open? So he did the same thing, but in reverse.
Despite the intensity of Thursday’s storm, 29 people made their way to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church from 4-5pm
This is in line with the trend of recent weeks after changes to SNAP benefit rates went into effect in March.
“The food pantry numbers have really increased, so the donation was really timely,” George Czapar said, with Sally adding that they went from averaging about 30 people a day to as high as 77 during a recent service. .
Alonzo was present as the first of the donated items was distributed Thursday evening.
“There was a mom there who had four kids, and she was more than happy to bring home some milk and sandwiches,” Alonzo said. “I’d much rather know she’s feeding the kids, or anyone else, than wasting it.
“It was cool, to actually be there as it’s been distributed to some people and to see that it’s actually going to make a difference in people’s lives is amazing.”