When Marta Prada Pelaez’s cell phone rang Wednesday afternoon, she almost did not answer.
She was in the office of her son, District 8 city councilman Manny Pelaez, discussing issues related to her job as president and chief executive officer of Family Violence Prevention Services, a battered women and children’s shelter in San Antonio.
Pelaez did not recognize the number that popped up on her caller ID.
“The number read ‘Oregon,’” Pelaez recalled. “I don’t know anybody in Oregon.”
On the other end was a former Oregonian — namely Spurs guard Patty Mills, calling from the cell number he has used since his rookie NBA season in Portland.
For Pelaez, it turned out to be the best kind of cold call.
Over the course of the next hour, the seeds were planted for a Mother’s Day initiative Mills unveiled Friday, one meant to aid disparate groups affected by the COVID-19 lockdown including Pelaez’s shelter.
At its heart, Mills’ brainchild is a coffee drive. Patrons spend money at one of eight participating San Antonio coffee shops from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, and Mills has pledged to donate to the Family Violence Prevention Services center an amount doubling the revenue those shops earn.
If the shops report $10,000 in receipts, for example, they keep the revenue and Mills will cut a check to FVPS for $20,000.
“It’s being able to use my platform to bring everyone together, share some good vibes and at the same time be able to make an impact on things that really matter,” Mills said Friday.
The eight shops participating are: Mildfire Coffee on Huebner Road, Press Coffee on Broadway, Theory Coffee on Nacogdoches Road., Indy Coffee Co. on UTSA Blvd., Brown Coffee on Alamo St., Estate Coffee Co. on Houston St., Scorpion Coffee on Lamar and Gold Coffee on S. Flores St.
Mills has been hands-on in organizing the event. He spent part of Thursday hand-delivering promotional materials to the coffee shops and ensuring social distancing and safety protocols will be followed when coffee-drinkers arrive Sunday.
Like any good marketing campaign in 2020, Mills’ effort also comes with a hashtag. Patrons who posted pictures of themselves on social media with the hashtag #GiveMamaCoffee will be eligible to win a chance at a virtual Zoom coffee hang with Mills.
The goal for Mills is two-fold. One is to provide a boost to struggling coffee shops just now beginning to re-open after the expiration of Gov. Greg Abbott’s stay-at-home orders.
The other is to support an issue Mills, 31, believes has been overlooked during the coronavirus crisis.
Domestic violence, Mills says, is a problem that “has only been heightened and increased since the pandemic hit.”
He isn’t wrong.
City officials say emergency 911 calls for family violence increased 18 percent in March compared with the same period in 2019.
Pelaez, whose organization helps give women and families tools to escape abusive situations, isn’t surprised.
“What we are seeing is the very stay-at-home orders to protect us health-wise escalates as very different situation for victims of domestic violence,” Pelaez said. “They find themselves trapped and isolated with their abuser. That has us very concerned.”
Family Violence Prevention Services traces its roots to 1977. Its first building was a three-bedroom house on the city’s north side.
It moved to its current location, a 220-bed facility near The Quarry, in 2002.
“Some people come to us with nothing but a black garbage bag full of their possessions,” Pelaez said. “They need everything.”
To those victims, Pelaez and her staff offer free legal services, temporary housing and counseling.
Adults are not the only victims of family violence. Pelaez said women arrive at the shelter with an average of three children in tow.
That is a fact Mills said hit him hardest.
“When we raise children, we’re raising the next set of parents,” Mills said. “That’s something that really resonates with me.”
Pelaez had never met or spoken to Mills before he called her on Wednesday with his idea.
She says she isn’t much of a sports fan.
“I have no time to be a fan of anyone,” Pelaez said with a chuckle. “I wish I did.”
When Mills called out of the blue to pitch his idea, Pelaez says she was “floored.”
Of course she was glad to have someone with Mills’ local name-recognition offer to lend his cachet to her purpose.
There was something else that touched Pelaez about Mills’ unsolicited outreach.
“This is a man,” she said. “I am delighted to see a man engage and understand the issue of family violence and how it impacts the community.”
For Mills, the idea came as most of his best ideas do — over a cup of coffee.
His love of java is well recorded in Spurs lore. Mills is the ringleader of the team’s so-called “Coffee Gang” of players that meet for a cup on the road as a matter of ritual.
He has been known to guzzle a double espresso at halftime of Spurs games.
Mills’ Mother’s Day coffee drive began as a way to help local independent shops forced to close for the past several weeks.
Having also researched family violence issues, and alarmed at the rising statistics locally, Mills quickly decided to loop a local shelter into his coffee cause.
“What I’m trying to do here is to be able to support our community, and then be able to have a little bit of a domino effect on this country and also the world,” Mills said.
This much is certain. Come Sunday in San Antonio, a cup of coffee will be worth more than, well, a cup of coffee.
Before he called her Wednesday, Pelaez had never heard of Mills.
“I might be his biggest fan,” she said.
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