Starbucks debacle prompts coffee-shop fundraiser

RYAN HUTTON/ Staff photo Dana and Salvatore DeFranco hold some the coffee they have been shipping all over the country recently after pledging to give half the profits of all their online sales to the police charity Concerns of Police Survivors.

HAVERHILL — Three pounds of specially sourced, meticulously roasted coffee beans are on their way to the Police Department in Tempe, Arizona.

But the java is not coming from Starbucks as a kind gesture after six Tempe police officers were asked to leave when a customer was uncomfortable with their presence.

No, these beans are coming from Battle Grounds Coffee Co. in downtown Haverhill, where owners Salvatore and Dana DeFranco are raising money for a police organization as a response to the Starbucks calamity.

For the month of July, this veteran-owned business is donating half the profits from its online sales of coffee beans, T-shirts, mugs and other Battle Grounds items to Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), an organization whose mission is rebuilding the shattered lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line-of-duty deaths.

Dana DeFranco said her staff can barely keep up with the hundreds of orders that have been pouring in since she and her husband announced their fundraiser this past weekend.

"A lot of our orders have come in from members of the military and police, based on messages we've received on Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter," she said. 

She said they've shipped product to every state, as well as Canada.

Sal DeFranco, a former Navy SEAL, said he was horrified when he learned what had happened on Independence Day at the Starbucks in a Phoenix suburb.

"It was disheartening," he said. "At Battle Grounds, our mission is heavily focused on supporting all of those who serve, including police, fire, EMTs and military past and present."

Battle Grounds in Haverhill and its newest location in the heart of the Riverwalk complex in Lawrence regularly host free events in partnership with the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce for veterans looking for jobs or job training, or who want start a business or seeking health care or housing support.

All of those who serve the public, including police, members of the military, firefighters and EMTs receive a discount at Battle Grounds.

In May of 2018, Sal DeFranco spoke to a crowd of more than 400 injured law enforcement officers in Texas, telling them he knows what it's like to suffer a debilitating injury and how it's important to remain optimistic.

He said he was severely injured while crossing a street in San Diego in 2008, just a week before his second deployment to Iraq. He was in a coma for three weeks and it took several years to recover.

He recounted building relationships with police and that he led a room-clearing training session at the Emergency Operations Proving Grounds in Jacksboro, Texas.

According to the Associated Press, Starbucks apologized after an employee asked the police officers to leave or change their location because another customer felt unsafe.

Starbucks issued a statement saying the company has “deep respect for the Tempe Police Department” and apologizing “for any misunderstanding or inappropriate behavior that may have taken place” during the July 4 encounter.

The Tempe Officers Association said the police had just purchased their drinks and were standing together before their shift started when a barista made the request.

Association President Rob Ferraro called it perplexing that someone would feel unsafe when officers are around.

“This treatment of public safety workers could not be more disheartening. While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive. Unfortunately, such treatment has become all too common in 2019,” the association stated in a Tweet.

"It truly is a thankless job," Sal DeFranco said about law enforcement. "It's time that we re-pivoted as a country and show law enforcement how much we appreciate them."

While Sal and Dana were helping package coffee in the Haverhill shop Tuesday, in walked Boston homicide detective Paul Chevrette, 51, of Roxbury.

"I saw you on the news and I told my wife I'm coming up here to get some beans to grind while we're on vacation at the Cape," Chevrette told Sal and Dana.

He brought along his son Timothy, 16, a student at Catholic Memorial.

"Bigger than the COPS fundraiser, what really touched me was that someone took the time to correct something that was wrong," Paul Chevrette said. "Good deeds should be rewarded. And as a law enforcement officer, it's important to me that someone took time to do this."

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report