One Christmas gift came a little bit late for a local serviceman and his team which are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of the 7th Special Forces Group Airborne. The gift: coffee from home donated by the community.
Robert Williams, a native of the Western Treasure Valley, is serving in the U.S. Army, and was deployed overseas in September of 2018. So it’s no surprise that when his aunt, Hilary Bjornson, tried to find out what he really wanted for the holiday, Williams sought the comforts of home — specifically local coffee.
“Honestly, I just want some coffee from Jolts & Juice — as much as you can send,” Bjornson recalls was her nephew’s response about his holiday wish list.
And Williams had an idea, that perhaps the community could offer support in making it happen.
“We both agreed that it would be a wonderful opportunity for family, friends and community to support his team through this small effort, and so Jolts for Joes was born,” wrote Bjornson in an email.
So Bjornson reached out to Vicki Heinz, who co-owns the local coffee shops with her husband, Todd. Heinz was extremely receptive to the idea.
Wooden donation crates were set up in November and December that had a photo of Williams and a brief description of the cause.
So, too, was the community receptive: The response was so overwhelming in the first couple of days that a donation crate had been set up at the coffee shop’s downtown location, that Heinz called Bjornson and they decided to put crates up at all four stores.
Bjornson said Heinz and the Jolts team went “above and beyond — hosting this event, storing the raised coffee, having a friendly competition between stores to raise donations, and then offering to grind and ship the coffee as well.”
In a short time, Jolts’ customers, who could donate a pound of coffee beans at a time, had rounded up 166 pounds of coffee.
Before it was shipped out to Williams and his comrades, Heinz ground up the beans and put them back into the bags.
There was so much coffee, it had to be shipped out in multiple boxes, the final of which recently arrived.
And while he and his team have been split up on various missions right now, so a group photo is not a possibility, he did get to speak with Bjornson late last week.
Williams told his aunt that “the guys were all enjoying the coffee and that they were so appreciative of the community support.”
And Bjornson, too, is appreciative, for the community. Her 27-year-old nephew is on his first tour, having went into the military later in life. Williams grew up in Payette, she said, and graduated from Vale High School, and all of his family is in Ontario.
“What was intended to be a box or two of coffee has turned into so much more,” she said. “I am humbled by the support of this community for one of our local boys — and my nephew. We are so proud of him and proud of this community that clearly cares.”