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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Veterans Coffee Social Reaches 5-Year Anniversary Local Starbucks Honored for Launching Popular Monthly Senior Center Event

Dick Hynes presents the Military Challenge Coin to Starbucks employees for their continued support of veterans. Shown, Hynes, Courtney Clark, Bobby Bingham, Kira Chavez, and Hunter Klawson

By J.D. O’Gara
On April 4th, the monthly Veterans Coffee Social at the Franklin Senior Center celebrated 5 years of bringing veterans together. In particular, the local Starbucks, was honored by attendees. 
“Starbucks initiated this – they reached out to us,” says Debra Martin, of the Franklin Veterans Services Office, noting that the monthly socials draw about 30 veterans a month, and the 5-year celebration was the first time that the social had four female veterans. 
“When I was in Franklin, my store manager, Diana, actually reached out to veterans of Franklin and decided we were going to start this to be part of the community in Franklin,” says Courtney Clark, who was honored with a certificate of appreciation from Franklin VSO Shannon Nisbett as well as a Military Challenge Coin by Dick Hynes for her and her colleagues’ continued voluntary commitment to this opportunity for local veterans. Clark was accompanied by her fellow Starbucks associates Kira Chavez, Bobby Bingham and Hunter Klawson. All associates voluntarily cater the coffee socials each month.
Clark explains that continuing to give back through the Veterans Coffee Social falls in line with Starbucks’ Armed Services Network, an affinity group of Starbucks partners who support our veteran communities by serving those who serve. “We also do Red Friday for vets, remembering everyone deployed, we wear our red shirts on Friday in honor of that,” she says. The Veterans Coffee Social, she says, “is to show our support for them after all they’ve done for our country to thank them for their service, and to provide them with a time where they can be social with other veterans and us as well. It’s an event we look forward to every month.”
“I’ve been coming for about 5 years,” says Jim Lane, who cherishes the opportunity to mingle with his brothers in arms and “the camaraderie and the sharing of experiences not only for our veterans’ (military) careers, but also our civilian lives.” Veterans can share “both good and bad experiences,” which lead to them helping each other. 
Veteran Bob Markunis points out that the coffee socials draw veterans from every era, “and we get to open up,” he says. “The brotherhood that we had that we got while serving in the military, we are now re-establishing with other veterans.” Markunis says he has been able to open up to other veterans in ways he could not with his own family, and fellow veterans he says, have “offered me assistance without knowing they did.” He is confident he and other veterans have made a difference for other veterans as well. “We take our experience now and bring them back to the younger people. I’ve formed friendships, and I’d have no problem with them watching over my family if something happened.”

“As we meet each other and we find out what each other did, I’m fascinated with the history and also the bravery and the courage of young veterans,” says Lane. “It’s the best of the best.”
Veteran Gerry Bradie was invited to the coffee social by Martin one day when he stopped in to get some information.  
“And I started coming, and what the boys (Markunis and Lane) have said is true, you get to find out where people have been, what they did, what they’re doing now.” Bradie points out that some of the veterans are near 100, still sharp, “and they’re proud. We have everybody in here, newbies to 100 years of age. We’re all green. We might be different shades, but we’re still all together.”
Lane comments on the patriotism of the veterans who attend the coffee socials.
“The stories and experiences we hear from each other, it helps you feel good about being a patriot,” says Lane.

 Courtney Clark, of Starbucks, received a certificate of appreciation last month on behalf of her company for initiating and continuing monthly Veterans Coffee Socials at the Franklin Senior Center.

“The coffee socials are very well received,” says Martin, “and we’ve had special guests, but we try to keep it varied. Next month, we’ll just have a social, without speakers.” Announcements are usually made to keep older veterans, some of whom don’t have access to a computer, informed about events of interest to them. The vets, she says, “absolutely love it. We put out a suggestion box a couple of months ago, and the only suggestion we got was ‘keep up the good work.’ They like the camaraderie, and we’re thrilled.”
The next Veterans Coffee Social will take place on May 4, 2022. All veterans are invited to attend.