Tully's Coffee: Building Community


On April 27, 2011, Tuscaloosa was ravaged by a tornado that cut through the heart of the city. A year later, the city was implementing "Tuscaloosa Forward,” a plan to connect neighborhoods once divided by economic class and a car-centric design.

Local art teacher Kimberly Conway wrote a grant to Tully's Coffee, winning a $100,000 partnership with Seattle-based non-profit Pomegranate Center, bringing Tully's and Pomegranate to collaborate with Tuscaloosa citizens and create a community gathering place.

From an initial public meeting in December, 2011, to a 10 day build in June, 2012, the community came together to create the Alberta Gathering Place. The amphitheater, made with volunteer labor and nearly all donated or salvaged materials, anchors one end of a greenbelt pathway meant to revitalize the city of Tuscaloosa.

Role: Director, Cinematographer, Editor          Run Time: 3:27


Director: Tim Matsui
Cinematographer: Tim Matsui
Editor: Tim Matsui
Executive Producer: Karen Yacos
Opening Poem: "Brighter Day" by Latosha Patterson, read
by citizens of Tuscaloosa.



The Corporate Social Responsibility team at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Keurig Green Mountain) wanted to tell a story about building community through a national grant program from its Tully's Coffee brand, and a partnership with the Pomegranate Center. Their content needs were diverse: material for internal communications, for partner organizations, a record of the event, and for media handout, public affairs and other outward facing communications. 

I proposed still photographs, a short film, and a social media campaign. After budget approval, I went to Tuscaloosa to find and tell stories of the community, reaching beyond the event of the culminating "build," the several day push by volunteers to realize months of planning and collaboration.

I identified tornado survivors, a local steel plant which not only used its heavy machinery to clear roads immediately following the disaster but then donated steel I-beams to the build, and followed the stories of several community members who participated in the build or donated materials.

During the build, I worked with a social media firm hired by Green Mountain to deliver captioned daily images and, at the end of the project, added this film and a number of photographs to the CSR team's content pool.

As for the build itself, the $100,000 dollar grant covered Pomegranate's services and roughly $25,000 dollars in materials. With city and volunteer contributions, the project was valued at a quarter-million dollars.