Manatee, Sarasota Starbucks to display adoption albums

MANATEE -- Twelve-year-old Caleb has been in the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families for four years while he waits for a family to adopt him.

Caleb has cerebral palsy. While he doesn't talk and has some hearing issues, he responds to touch and loves music, said David Luebcke, director of programs at Safe Children Coalition-Sarasota YMCA, the agency responsible for 170 local children who were abused, abandoned or neglected.

The medical facts about Caleb are daunting, but then there is that smile.

On Thursday, Caleb's laughing face, along a story about him, was in an adoption album called, "Open This Book to Change a Life!" at the Starbucks at Manatee Avenue and 59th Street West.

The Heart Gallery albums, featuring professionally taken portraits, are in 10 other local Starbucks.

"We are looking for superheroes," said Lucia Branton director of media and external affairs, Safe Children Coalition-Sarasota YMCA, referring to "superhero" adoptive parents who have a heart for children ages 3 to 16.

The 50 children featured are currently not being considered for adoption and have been in the child care system a long time, Luebcke said

"Some of the children are part of a sibling group, and we want to keep sibling groups together," Branton added.

Identical albums featuring these free adoptions will be placed for customer viewing at each of the stores.

"This gets our kid's stories out into the community," Luebcke said.

"I love it," said store manager Chelsea Jones, 27, glancing at the album. "It's close to my heart."

The partnership took four months to finalize and is the brainchild of Branton and Jones.

"I came in one day in March to order my Pike Place Roast, and Chelsea and I started talking about an adoption program in

Pensacola involving Starbucks," Branton said. "I asked Chelsea if we could do it here."

Jones called Jeff Fernandez, the manager of Starbucks' District 470, and Fernandez quickly responded, "Sure. Let's do it."

After displaying their albums for a year, the Pensacola adoption agency saw more than a dozen children adopted, Branton said.

"This is what all of society should be doing," said Starbucks' customer Cherie Heasley while looking through the book. "The amount of children who have no home to turn to is staggering."

"We would adopt if we were younger," said 73-year-old Bradenton resident Priscilla Wright, who was sipping coffee with her husband, Jack, 75.

The albums will be updated as children find adoptive homes.

"Our hope is to bring some awareness to the community about children who need to be placed in a loving home," Branton said. "We will update the book as new children are available and remove those that have been placed in an identified adoptive home."

Luebcke and Branton are fans of adopting older children. "No diapers," Luebcke said.

"These are children who have endured a lot of trauma," Branton added. "When the walls come down and you see the spirit behind all of that baggage, it's an incredible feeling."

A person who wished to adopt Caleb would be trained to be his caregiver, Branton said.

"I would say a person who adopted Caleb would be patient and open-minded to learning about his needs." Branton said.

The Starbucks with albums in Manatee County are: Manatee Avenue and 59th Street West, Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Main Street, U.S. 41 and Manatee Avenue, State Road 70 and Interstate 75, 75th Street West and Cortez Road, 1401 Cortez Road, S.R. 64 and I-75, and U.S. 41 and 53rd Avenue West.

The Starbucks with albums in Sarasota are at: 5485 University Parkway, University Boulevard at Tuttle Avenue and Fruitville Road at Honore Avenue.

Starbucks customers interested in adopting a child are asked to call Amy Chamberlain at 941-371-4799, ext. 211.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond