Coffee, Community, & the North Carolina Courage

In keeping with the theme of organizations supporting 321 Coffee during Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I wanted to take some time to highlight the North Carolina Courage – North Carolina’s NWSL team – and their selection of 321 Coffee as their community partner for the Verizon Community Shield, taking place from September 5th-October 17th during the NWSL Fall Series.

So, what is the Verizon Community Shield? In essence, it gave all nine NWSL teams an opportunity to select a small business or organization to play for during the Fall Series. At the conclusion of the series, the first-place finisher received a $25,000 grant to present to their community partner, the second-place finisher a $15,000 grant, and the third-place finisher a $10,000 grant. In addition to the potential of receiving grant money, the small businesses selected were guaranteed to receive valuable publicity and exposure via team socials and networks where the games were broadcasted (i.e. CBS and Twitch).

As you may recall, NC Courage midfielder Cari Roccaro served as a celebrity barista at 321 Coffee back in March, learning the ropes of making and serving coffee from 321 employees Carly and Paul. “I wanted to start giving back [to the community] and I got connected through our staff with this coffee shop. They seemed pretty excited about having me here, working with me, and getting to know me,” Roccaro said of the experience. “I think it’s so fun, I’ve been getting to know them and I feel like this is a place now that I’m going to want to come back and spend more time at which is really cool.”

Little did Roccaro know, an opportunity for the Courage to continue its show of support for 321 Coffee would arise in the coming months with the announcement of the Verizon Community Shield during the Fall Series. When asked why the players chose 321 Coffee as their community partner, Roccaro explained: “321 Coffee exemplifies inclusion which is an important message our team wants to relay during this time.”

Roccaro wasn’t the only one excited for the chance to play on behalf of 321 Coffee. “I was genuinely excited when I found out that the players had selected 321 Coffee as their community partner for the Verizon Community Shield,” said Morgan Birkedal, the Senior Communications Manager for the Courage. “Cari Roccaro was the one that brought 321 Coffee to the table and to the team. I truly think that’s because of her experience as a guest barista back in March. She doesn’t even drink coffee, but she learned so much from the baristas and it was a great experience for her, so she suggested that the Courage select 321 Coffee as their community partner.”

For Morgan, the partnership between 321 Coffee and the NC Courage was a way of bringing together her work life and her personal life, as she knew several of the baristas during her college years. To her, it was a no-brainer to cheer on the Courage as they played for 321 Coffee, fighting to place in the top three over the course of the Fall Series.

Though the Courage did not win first, second, or third place during the Fall Series, the exposure that 321 Coffee received from the Verizon Community Shield was just as valuable. “Obviously, we were disappointed to not bring home the prize money for 321 Coffee but I was excited to see that the Courage had the most mentions with the hashtag #VerizonCommunityShield throughout the entire Fall Series. Over 4.5 million people were in the audience that saw 321 Coffee on the news or in print,” Morgan continued, “I think that’s a huge accomplishment for our club and for our players to have gotten 321 Coffee out in the public like that and am excited that the players were able to contribute to their customer base in that way. I look forward to what 321 Coffee and the Courage can do in the future!”