On a summer morning in 1997, an employee of a Starbucks arrived to open the Wisconsin Avenue NW store and moments later ran screaming into the street.
Inside lay the bodies of employees Mary Caitrin Mahoney, Emory Allen Evans and Aaron David Goodrich.
Soon after the deaths, Starbucks announced that the company would attempt to create some meaning from the senseless act of brutality by donating all proceeds from the store, located just north of Georgetown, to charity. Today, the company will announce eight grants to nonprofit groups working to prevent crime or help crime victims.
"We cannot reverse the tragedy, but we want to do something positive," said Dean Torrenga, regional operations manager. "We lost three partners in the tragedy in 1997. We don't want to see something like this happen ever again."
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region is administering the fund. The foundation combed through 30 proposals before recommending the eight agencies.
Three grantees will help crime victims. The St. Francis Center, which counsels children and adults dealing with illness and grief, will make four professional grief counselors available to families and individuals called by the District morgue and informed that they must identify the body of a loved one.
The Stephanie Roper Foundation, named for a 22-year-old murdered in 1982, will use the grant to support free, short-term counseling for families in Prince George's County whose relatives have been killed.
A new program, Ubuntu, will train volunteer mediators to arrange meetings between young people involved in property crimes and their victims and arrive at some form of restitution.
"It is a way to engage the conscience of the juveniles," said Kerry O'Donnell, founder of the group, which takes its name from a Zulu word meaning the spirit of community. He hopes the encounters will help stop the juveniles from committing more crimes and more serious ones.
O'Donnell also hopes to bring some comfort to the victims. "When violated by any kind of crime, victims feel a loss of control," he said. "I hope sitting down with the juvenile will fill a need they have to regain a sense of control."
Juveniles and victims who agree to meet will be referred to Ubuntu by D.C. Superior Court and the office of the corporation counsel.
The first grants total $75,000 and come on top of $25,000 given earlier to a crime prevention program called Circle of Hope. New grants will be awarded periodically.
The remaining grants in this round are focused on crime prevention. One, coincidentally, will be run by a woman who had a gun held to her head, years ago, in a store just down the street from Starbucks.
Andrea Pitzer said the slayings in Starbucks were a shocking reminder of the day a gunman entered the store where she worked and threatened to kill her before fleeing. She was chilled by the detail that the Starbucks victims had been bound. She discovered after her own ordeal that police who arrested the gunman had found duct tape and rope in his bag.
She applied for a Starbucks grant as soon as she heard about the program, offering to teach self-defense skills to high-risk groups. She will teach participants some simple defensive maneuvers that could help them if attacked. But she will focus on language skills that could discourage an attacker and de-escalate an encounter before it turns violent.
Pitzer, now a martial arts expert with the DC Self-Defense Karate Association, gives courses to gay men who believe they could be targets of hate crimes.
The defensive training also will be offered to survivors of sexual assault who are referred by the Prince George's County Sexual Assault Center, and to a group of teen mothers at Bladensburg High School. The grant, she said, will allow her to train 150 to 200 people.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the National Capital Area, which pairs young people from single-parent homes with adult mentors, will use its grant to expand a program matching at-risk youth with police officers.
Teenagers in two high-crime neighborhoods in the District--Galveston Place and Brandywine--will be brought into a work-study program offered by Community Family Life Services. Teens in the program work in part-time jobs, and a portion of their earnings is put in savings accounts set up in their names. They also get involved in community service projects.
Another grant will support a Fairfax Partnership for Youth program for students who have been suspended from school. The partnership involves churches, schools and other community groups to create an individualized program for each child.
In Montgomery County, a grant will assist the Mental Health Association, which is preparing a violence prevention curriculum for use in all county middle schools.
"We hope," Torrenga said, "that the programs will have a real impact."
CAPTION: AARON DAVID GOODRICH
CAPTION: MARY CAITRIN MAHONEY
CAPTION: EMORY ALLEN EVANS
CAPTION: Bridgett Blackstone, center, laughs with her Big Sister, Sgt. Gloria Dickerson, and Officer Kevin Brittingham. Starbucks is backing Big Brothers/Big Sisters.