The National Restaurant Association congratulated Starbucks Coffee Company on the success of its national jobs fund program, which has raised more than $1.5 million in donations since it debuted last November.

The program, called "Create Jobs for USA," was developed by Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz in partnership with the Opportunity Finance Network, a network of community development financial institutions that invests in small businesses in order to jumpstart employment throughout America. Schultz launched the program with a $5 million donation from the Starbucks Foundation at the end of 2011 when the national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent. It currently hovers at 8.6 percent.

In order to fund the jobs plan, Starbucks has asked its customers to donate $5 or more to the fund. Those who make donations receive a red, white and blue wristband inscribed with the word "Indivisible" on its face. Additionally, more than 150 business leaders have made contributions to the jobs initiative.

"It's inspiring to see Americans coming together to play a role in helping create and sustain jobs," Schultz said in a written statement. "Since launching this initiative, concerned citizens are ... helping Americans [get] back to work."

The company noted that the program and the pledges made to it "would not by themselves turn [the] country around, but, rather, were designed to be catalysts for change that serve as an inspiration and example to others of the kind of leadership and courage [the] country needs at this critical time."

Schultz said he is optimistic that the public's positive response to the program will continue through 2012.