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“Be a Coffee Bean”: Tega Cay aims to be first Coffee Bean City, but it doesn’t have anything to do with brewing coffee

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:58 PM EDT
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TEGA CAY, S.C. (WBTV) - There is something brewing in the City of Tega Cay.

City leaders are hoping to promote positivity amongst the community with a program known as ‘Be a Coffee Bean.’

City Manager of Tega Cay Charlie Funderburk says, like many people, city employees got into a funk during 2020.

“It really just kind of messed up our culture,” Funderburk said. “People were being very short with one another as they were communicating, things like that.”

Funderburk says he was looking for leadership inspiration when he came across a book co-written by motivational speaker and author Damon West. The book is called “The Coffee Bean.”

According to a video on Damon West’s website, he came across the concept of being a coffee bean on his way to prison to serve a 65-year-sentence for crimes he committed related to his drug addiction. He compares prison to a boiling pot of hot water.

“The story of the coffee bean that he [West] tells is that life is like a pot of boiling hot water,” Funderburk said. “When you throw a carrot in the pot of hot water, what happens to it? It becomes soft. It becomes weak. When you throw an egg into that same boiling pot of hot water, it becomes hard like a hard-boiled egg. What happens when you throw a coffee bean into a pot of boiling hot water? Well, the water becomes coffee. So, the smallest of the three objects that you add into that pot of boiling water, it changes its environment instead of letting its environment change it.”

Funderburk was so moved by the concept, he decided to introduce it to city employees in early June of 2021. He says he noticed a change in their positivity and attitudes.

“People who ordinarily have come in, go into their office, do their work, and go home, now, they’re like ‘hey, how are you doing’, ‘how’s your family’, ‘how was your evening’. They are generally just happier,” Funderburk said.

So, city leaders took it a step further and challenged city employees to spread the ‘be a coffee bean’ message to people in the community. They gave each employee five bracelets that read: ‘Be a Coffee Bean’. Each time a coffee bean is identified, the person is recognized on the City of Tega Cay’s Facebook page.

“That coffee bean person is looking to make a difference, looking to make things better,” Funderburk said. “If that becomes the new norm, just think about how much better we will be.”

Now, Tega Cay’s Parks and Recreation Director Joey Blethen is working to bring the program to Tega Cay’s youth leagues. Each season, about 1,800 kids from ages three to 14 are involved in youth sports within the city.

Blethen says instilling the ‘Be a Coffee Bean’ program will start with parents and coaches. Each will be given a positivity pledge to sign. The letter ensures parents and coaches are putting positivity and sportsmanship first.

“The coach kind of sets the tone for everyone,” Blethen explained. “If the coach is upset at a call, that’s going to permeate to the kids, to the parents, and everything.”

Athletes will get involved by nominating coffee beans on their teams. The coffee bean players will be put into a drawing for a grand prize which is where local businesses come into play.

The owners of Abbott’s Frozen Custard of Tega Cay, Todd and Kathy Nettnin, wanted to get involved as soon as they read the story of ‘The Coffee Bean’.

“There’s so much negativity in the world today and the whole coffee bean story is really just about celebrating good,” Todd Nettnin said. “Even the littlest thing that somebody does to be a better person.”

The Nettnins will incentivize being a coffee bean athlete by offering prizes, including free frozen custard, to players who show positivity.

“We’re setting the building blocks by saying, ‘Hey, just be a good person’,” Blethen said.

Funderburk says Tega Cay’s school principals are also welcoming the idea. He says there will be coffee bean clubs in schools from elementary to high school come the fall. He hopes the concept will create a positive ripple effect on everyone it touches.

“I want us to go from coffee bean city, to coffee bean county, to coffee bean state,” Funderburk said.

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