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COLORADO SPRINGS — A local Starbucks store manager pays local firefighters, along with coffee, after saving his home during a fire in Colorado Springs in early May.

The effort is called Passion Project, and the first coffee giveaway took place last Friday. Starbucks employees from more than 100 Front Range locations delivered 500 pounds of coffee and handwritten notes to more than 100 local fire departments.

“For us, they keep our community safe, and I wanted to remind them that we love them and support them,” said Rianne Chinchilla, Starbucks store manager in Fountain.

An appreciation station is now set up at this Starbucks and many other places, “where our community can come together, to write notes of appreciation or write on the five pound coffee bag just to show them how much they are important to us,” Chinchilla said.

Passion Project is an effort that Chinchilla started after the Akerman fire on May 12. Nearly 500 homes were evacuated that day and a couple suffered minor damage. But hundreds of homes, including Chinchilla’s, were saved thanks to the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

“It hadn’t even been a week since we moved in, when we got a pre-evacuation notice on my phone, and I had no idea what that meant. I was really nervous,” Chinchilla said. “They (the firefighters) saved more than houses, they saved houses, they saved dreams. And so I just wanted to do something special for firefighters.

Passion Project donates five pounds of coffee and handwritten letters every two weeks to fire departments in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Alamosa, and even Lincoln, Nebraska.

“Usually the way we start our days is we get to the station, put our gear on our rigs, and grab a cup of coffee and kind of catch up on what we’re doing for the day,” said Capt. Mike Smaldino, the Colorado Springs Fire Department Information Office.

Captain Smaldino also said it’s already been a busy year fighting the fires and they’ve had a lot of support from the community so far.

“Like it got drier and the winds started picking up again. You know, it’s just a reminder that we live in a wildfire-prone community,” Capt. Smaldino said. “But our community is awesome, and this is just another example of that.”

Nearly 110 Starbucks locations are participating in Project Passion, and they will be doing so all summer long. Their next coffee drop will be on Friday July 1st. For more information, you can go to the Starbucks location in Fountain, off Mesa Ridge Parkway.

“Truly from the bottom of our hearts. thank you, and it’s great to support the entire firefighting community,” Capt. Smaldino said.

“It’s a matter of support. It’s a question of strength. It’s about their community being there by their side. So it’s more than a cup of coffee,” Chinchilla said.
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