Bend Company Supports El Salvador Orphanage
If you’re going to spend any time with Sean McDonell, founder and CEO of Bend-based Coffee4Kids, take a deep breath, do some stretches, and be prepared to take off running. McDonell is as high-energy as a person can get. And, it’s not the caffeine; it’s the mission. Mix one part pure energy, one part pure heart, and one part extraordinary business skills and you have a recipe for fast success.
Coffee4Kids offers roasted coffee beans and other coffee products with proceeds earmarked for saving children in El Salvador from dire circumstances. McDonell, a one-time Merrill Lynch superstar, chose to hang up his suit and tie, as well as visions of the perpetual “8 to 5 job” with the goal of fully supporting the orphanage his father founded.
“I didn’t think I had my dad’s heart, but I knew I had his energy,” McDonell recalls. “I wanted Pa to be able to pay more attention to the kids, not fundraising.”
McDonell’s mother Maricela, a native of El Salvador, showed intellectual promise as a young woman and was chosen to attend college in the United States. There, she met Bob McDonell—one of her instructors—and fell in love. They married in 1978. During their first trip to her homeland together in 1982—early in the stages of the Salvadoran Civil War—Bob was deeply moved by the sight of children begging. They were asking for newspapers to use for cover as they slept on the street.
The vision of those children and their plight stuck with the elder McDonell. He knew he was called to do something to help. In 1989—with three young sons of their own—the McDonells founded the Mi Casa Kids Orphanage.
“If you want to change something, you have to change the kids.” -Sean McDonell
In El Salvador, if you don’t have enough money to live in a gang-free area, you are relegated to living in a world of extortion, violence, and death. The way out is through a better job, and you can only get a better job if you have an education. Because of the continuing violence leading up to and since the Salvadoran Civil War, many children are orphaned with little hope for survival and no real hope for a better education.
The main goal at Mi Casa is to break the chain of poverty and violence. The government sends children in desperate need to Mi Casa knowing that they will be given a top-notch education and, ideally, become leaders who can provide a better future for all of El Salvador. Currently, there are 31 children in their care.
“We’re trying to raise the future leaders of El Salvador,” says the younger McDonell. “If you want to change something, you have to change the kids.”
With some coffee connections from his visits to family in El Salvador over the years, McDonell’s plans started brewing quickly in 2013. He first sold beans door to door and then gained the acquisition of wholesale clients, beginning with Newport Avenue Market.
It is perhaps a little ironic that coffee—the very crop that started the civil unrest in El Salvador—is the product Sean McDonell is using to do his part in helping to break the chain of violence and despair.
At age 32, and after only a year and a half as an official business entity, McDonell is well on his way to being able to relieve his Pa of fundraising duties. He has 56 outlets for his coffee beans in Oregon, Montana and Idaho, a warehouse in Oakland, California and one in Portland, and a network of importers. More recently, he’s introduced new products that are gaining popularity; Nitro-coffee is a cold brew served on-tap at several locations, and a CBD (cannabidiol)-infused cold coffee available at Mother’s Juice Cafes.