Business: Java Joy sets Oct. 26 launch of mobile unit in Rome staffed by adults with disabilities serving “coffee, ‘air’ hugs and joy”.

Business: Java Joy sets Oct. 26 launch of mobile unit in Rome staffed by adults with disabilities serving “coffee, ‘air’ hugs and joy”.

The Java Joy mobile unit ready for an event.

After months of fundraising along with the COVID pandemic, Java Joy Rome will be launching their mobile coffee unit the week of Oct. 26-30. Local businessman Gaines Dempsey and his wife, Amy, began spearheading the effort to bring Java Joy to Rome last February. Staffed by adults with special disabilities called “joyristas”, the new company looks forward to serving coffee along with joy and now ‘air’ hugs at different locations throughout the area.

“We are super excited to be launching in Rome,” says Shannon Alley, coordinator for Java Joy Rome. “We plan to have two events a day with one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We already have several locations signed up for the first week…we’ve had a great response.”

The Dempseys continue to focus on fundraising efforts with Alley heading up the day-to-day operations. Local businesses, organizations or schools can reserve Java Joy to come for special events, customer appreciation events and more. Among those hosting Java Joy this month include Darlington School, Do Good Boutique and YMCA.

Alley says Java Joy has had to make some modifications due to the pandemic.

“Every staff member will wear a face shield at all times, as well as gloves. We have individual sugar and creamer and will have all our staff socially distanced,” she says. “Before COVID, our staff would offer hugs as part of our joy message. But now, we have to give ‘air’ hugs…its a huge change we have to do. Java Joy in Athens has been following the new guidelines and have had zero cases from any of their events.”

Java Joy is still looking for adults with disabilities to serve as ‘joyristas’. If you would like to book Java Joy for your event or interested in employment, email

EARLIER REPORT (February 2020)

By Natalie Simms

Local businessman Gaines Dempsey and his wife, Amy, are spearheading an effort to bring a new opportunity to Rome for adults with special disabilities. Introducing Java Joy…a mobile coffee unit staffed by “joyristas” who serve your favorite brew, along with hugs and joy.

Based in Athens, Java Joy is a 501-C3 organization founded by Extra Special People Inc. (ESP), a program serving children and teens with developmental disabilities, including those with Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Autism and more, along with their families with year-round activities. ESP started Java Joy out of a need to help those adults who aged out their program.

“About 70 percent of adults with disabilities can and want to work but only about 35% are employed in meaningful work,” says Amy. “Java Joy empowers people of all disabilities to transform others by spreading their unmatched joy.

Joyristas serving coffee at the Athens Java Joy cart.

“This is something very unique…not like a brick and mortar shop, we’re not looking to compete with local coffeeshops.”

Java Joy is a mobile unit/cart that can be reserved for your business or event to serve employees, customers or guests.  Locations are now up and running in Athens and San Francisco, with new carts coming to Atlanta and Birmingham in addition to Rome. Typical event bookings are for 90 minutes or more and companies will pay based on number of coffee cups served, for example a 100-cup event or 200-cup event. Event openings will be available any day of the week at various times.

“There are folks reaching out to Java Joy from all over the country. Our vision is to become the largest employer and the best place to work in the United States for adults with disabilities,” she says.

Within the next two years, Java Joy hopes to be in 15 cities across the country, employing 250 adults and continuing to grow to 50 cities by 2025 with 1000 adults employed.

“We heard about Java Joy while researching programs for our daughter with special disabilities,” says Amy. “We actually were checking into how to start an Extra Special People program in Rome, we weren’t thinking Java Joy. But, the executive director (Laura Whitaker) encouraged us to think about Java Joy first since it was taking off in other communities.”

So, the Dempseys took up the challenge to become ‘City Champions’ to bring Java Joy to Rome. Their job is to begin raising funds and awareness for the organization.

“Fundraising is a big part of Java Joy since we are a non-profit organization. But once we get off the ground, it will be self-sustaining,” says Amy. “Right now, we are meeting with community leaders and businesses to introduce Java Joy and begin forming community sponsorships.”

One partnership already made: Lumina Coffee will be the local provider of coffee for Java Joy.

“We have partnered with Lumina Coffee for all our coffee products…we will definitely be serving good coffee,” she says. “We are glad to find a local vendor we can work with similar to how the Athens unit partners with Jittery Joes for local coffee.

“So folks who reserve our services know they are not only supporting our Joyristas, but also another local business.”

The Dempseys will have the Athens unit come to Rome for some trail bookings at various businesses so folks can see the company ‘in action’.

“Over the next few months, we will be hiring a City Lead who will be someone to manage the daily operations and reservations for Rome. We will also have folks coming from Java Joy headquarters for training. We hope to launch the mobile unit late this summer in August or early September,” says Amy.

Java Joy will work with local agencies that already work with adults with disabilities including the Network Day Center, DIGS and the Floyd Training Center to find its Joyristas.

“This company is a gift for people with disabilities and their family, but its also a gift for anyone that is not even touched by disabilities,” she says. “I don’t see how anyone cannot get a cup of coffee from these people, get a hug and see their joy and not love it…everyone always leaves in a better mood.”

The Dempseys hope to share Java Joy in other nearby communities as well.

“I definitely see us going to Cedartown, Rockmart and Calhoun…I certainly hope so,” she says.

For more information about Java Joy and how you can help, visit

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