Salvation Army coffee helps from farm to mug

first_imgLaurie Hill, manager of the Salvation Army thrift store in Hazel Dell, serves up a free cuppa Cafe La V on half-price Wednesday. The coffee at the Salvation Army thrift store on Highway 99 is good. Really good.Not just flavorful, that is, but ethical too — supporting farmers and orphans in Pleiku, a Vancouver-sized city in central Vietnam that was devastated, deserted and virtually destroyed during the Vietnam war.“Any proceeds from this go back to Vietnam,” said the Salvation Army’s Maj. Jack Phillips, who operates a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program near the Portland International Airport. “The U.S. has a history with Vietnam.”The Salvation Army is getting into the direct-trade coffee business, Phillips said — maintaining a relationship and buying beans directly from Pleiku farmers, paying them more than they’d make on the open market, and selling the coffee and the beans at hundreds of Salvation Army thrifts in the western United States. The Portland area’s thrifts are among the first to start stocking and selling the coffee, according to area retail manager Steve Cermak, but if all goes well, the product may even make the jump to non-Army retail store shelves in the near future.And it all started, Phillips said, with too many mugs.“About 20 years ago, my wife and I were trying to come up with something to do with all these coffee mugs,” he said. The thrift they ran back then, which underwrote a rehabilitation program, was drowning in donated mugs. This was before coffee grew into today’s caffeinated craze, he said, and there just wasn’t much market for millions of mugs.Phillips pondered the fact that wives tended to shop with purpose while husbands got bored. He hit upon the following scheme: Sell the mugs for a dollar each, keep a pot of coffee going and encourage people to sip while they shop. Husbands would enjoy the bottomless cup while their wives browsed; at the end of their shopping date they could either return the mug or keep it.last_img

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