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Karen Collinsworth is a fixture at Huntington, West Virginia’s Marshall University. 65-year-old Collinsworth transformed a job as the supervisor of the campus Starbucks into a way to connect with all her customers and mentor her youthful staff.

WhoKaren Collinsworth, Starbucks supervisor
WhereMarshall University, Huntington, West Virginia – USA
WhatStudents and staff all chipped in to help Collinsworth
WhyConstant car trouble and repeated burglaries
HowA GoFundMe spread through word of mouth and social media

Starbucks employee and Marshall sophomore Cassie Gray is one of many who cherishes Collinsworth. “I love coming into work knowing that she’s gonna be there. I talk to her about literally everything…she’s like my mom when I’m away from home and can’t talk to my mom. So it’s just like a relief, being able to go in there and talk to her and knowing that she’s going to help me work through whatever.”

While Collinsworth was quick to help others with their problems, she was hesitant to talk about her own. Namely, issues with her 2004 Kia. Another Starbucks employee and sophomore who counts herself among Collinsworth’s fans is Jaiden Horn. Horn said, “She had been having a lot of problems with the car in the past with her battery and it just not starting and her neighbors were having to give her jumpstart and things like that…One day she came into work, and she was like, ‘Yeah, somebody stole my catalytic converter last night, my car just isn’t doing well.’”

Customers sit in a Starbucks cafe and drink their coffee
Starbucks cafe | southtownboy via iStockPhoto

Thieves broke in to Collinsworth’s car again. Gray said, “She actually has had car problems probably the entire time I’ve known her…But Karen doesn’t like to talk about it because she didn’t want people feeling bad for her or anything like that.”

These baristas were not the only ones concerned. Word about Collinsworth’s misfortune had spread. They began to see posts on social media expressing a desire to help Collinsworth out.

Gray was inspired. “We all just kind of talked about it and we floated around the idea of starting a fundraiser for her…After work when I got back to my dorm, I decided to just make it because I figured even if we couldn’t raise that much money, any amount would help her.”

The GoFundMe was titled “We Love You Karen” and authored by “Anonymous Barista.” It had a lofty goal of $10,000, hopefully enough to repair Collinsworth’s car. The entire team shared the fundraiser to social media. Then they waited.

William Morrison donated $5. Then Tessa Gardner donated $10. John Seals donated $20. Then $5, $5, $50, $5. The donations just kept rolling in.

Two young women scroll on their phones while drinking their starbucks coffee
Starbucks customers | BalkansCat via iStockPhoto

Within 24 hours, the fundraiser had surpassed $10k and was still going strong. The Marshall University President even offered $5,000. After more than 1,200 donations, the fundraiser has collected $40k.

Word spread so quickly that it was Collinsworth’s neighbor who accidentally spilled the beans. The supervisor, who calls herself “Starbucks mom” was overjoyed.

“I was taken aback when I found out. It was very overwhelming. I knew these kids loved me because I love them…But for them to be 19-year-old college students … They have so much going on in their life, but then to take care of their Starbucks mom, Karen. That’s just how big their hearts are…It was just precious coming from these college kids that can’t afford a cup of coffee. Just goes to show you their kindness…I know those kids love me and that’s what makes my life worthwhile.”

Karen Collinsworth, Starbucks mom

Collinsworth is originally from the Columbus, Ohio area. She moved to Huntington, West Virginia, in 1976. She says she immediately “fell in love with Huntington.” Now she knows once and for all just how much Huntington loves her back.

Next, learn about the college campus that bought its favorite security guard a flight to Africa to visit his family, or see an interview with Karen for yourself in the video below: