Grace Jordan, Campus Carrier arts & living editor
Recently, a branch of Java Joy, a traveling coffee cart company, opened in Rome. Java Joy is a non-profit founded in 2013. The Rome Java Joy is a traveling coffee cart that was created to provide more employment opportunities to people with disabilities. Java Joy City Coordinator Shannon Alley is responsible for running the Rome location. Her job titles include overseeing event planning, fundraising, and marketing.
Java Joy, formerly known as Bouncin’ Bean coffee, falls under the umbrella of Extra Special People, which is a non-profit that was founded in 1986 dedicated to serving those with disabilities.
“Java Joy is a program under Extra Special People. Extra Special People is our after school and weekend programming for children, teenagers, and young adults with disabilities,” Alley said. “We are a mobile coffee cart, so we employ adults with disabilities. Our mission is to create transformative experiences between our Joyristas and the community and bridge the gap between people who they might not have interacted with before.”
Joyrista is a combination of the words “joy” and “barista,” a funny play on words that serves to highlight the uniqueness of Java Joy. It is used by the company as a name for their servers.
Alley, a recent college graduate, says her interest in Java Joy started in college where she worked with Extra Special People and her love for the organization grew from there.
“I actually volunteered with Extra Special People in college for two years,” Alley said. “I graduated and got a big girl job. And two years with that I decided I wanted a career change with something I was more passionate about that had a bigger impact on the community. So I reached out [to ESP] and asked if they were hiring at any level. Java Joy was starting in Rome and it naturally worked out to where we are today.”
Alley has been excited about the reception Java Joy has received so far. As she explained, the Rome community has accepted them with open arms.
“It’s been so wonderful,” Alley said. “Everyone is so nice and so welcoming. Everyone is so willing to have a conversation of what Java Joy is, what our mission is. The two and a half months I’ve been here, it’s felt like a family and everyone has fully embraced Java Joy and what the mission is. It’s blown me away the response this community has shown.”
The goal of Java Joy is to employ those with disabilities and introduce the community to these people. The process of working at Java Joy is fairly easy.
“We try and keep it pretty simple and streamlined,” Alley said. “What has usually been happening is parents will reach out to us, asking about Java Joy and what the Joyrista position looks like. I or one of our team members will have an initial phone call going over questions of the position and what it looks like day to day and if that’s a thing they’ re still interested in. We’ll set up a first interview then a second interview. We have three training shifts, those are shifts where they will work an event and make sure they are still interested and want to continue.”
Within the two weeks Java Joy has been in Rome, the organization has been able to attend multiple, diverse events.
“Our launch week we had 12 events,” Alley said. “That was a huge celebration, think of all the confetti, music and fireworks you can imagine. We got to serve parents and staff and the children had a Halloween costume parade. We served at Riverside auto group. We were at the YMCA and we had a really fun dance party. We ended the week at Honeymoon Bakery.”
Java Joy mainly functions off of community donations, which Alley explains can be given to the Rome location on the local page of the company website.
“People can donate on our website,” Alley said. “There’s a donate tab with a Rome specific page.”
Java Joy’s goal is to become the largest employer of adults with disabilities in the United States and Rome is one of the first locations to work towards that goal. To donate or book an event go to JavaJoy.org.