Java Joy in Athens offers happiness and coffee to those who need it
My mornings got better this week.
They got more expensive, but only a little bit. They added calories, but that’s okay.
Without a doubt, my morning got an upgrade. Yours can too!
As an astute observer of human nature, I know you’re dying to know what happened to add joy to my day. Enjoyment, with joy as the key, would be the key word.
My mornings are better because now, as I put in the grind of my cardiac rehab training every day, no matter how difficult it was, I know I can just walk down the hallway of Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center’s Oconee campus on Jennings Mill Road and snap Grab a cup of joe, or sip some tea — or maybe even a biscuit or biscuit, or stay for a salad — although my new friend Colin told me nine in the morning was way too early to have a salad.
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I’m speaking now of Java Joy, the latest endeavor from Extra Special People, Inc. (ESP), founded in Watkinsville in 1986 to create a community of opportunity for children with disabilities. In 1986 it looked like 21 children with special needs were being sent to a summer camp. Since then, the program has grown to include more than 500 participants from 30 counties with a wealth of activities that empower participants to live life to the fullest and provide meaningful, mainstream activities that encourage and make them more aware of each individual’s self make -value.
That’s my interpretation. Not those of the program.
ESP provides help to those who need it from birth – and participants are not forced to age. Participants include people with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, spina bifida, brain injuries – the goal is to be inclusive and push no boundaries. Nobody is turned away because of a lack of skills. ESP has programs that allow its employees to swim, dance, participate in arts and crafts, learn to cook, and learn how to behave in a work environment.
And that brings us to my adorable new morning hangout.
ESP started running a mobile cafe in 2016 with the support of many local individuals and businesses. They called it Java Joy. It was a way to provide meaningful employment for adults with disabilities while also providing unique opportunities for the community to engage with the program and its people.
Now there’s a permanent, freestanding Java Joy in the lobby of the aforementioned Piedmont Health Center – just removed from my daily cardiac rehab torture sessions. It’s my new favorite place and Colin, Hannah, Nathan, Nicky and all the other staff are my new favorite people.
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Of course there is coffee and warm breakfast biscuits. On my first trip, Nicky expertly recited the menu. “We have bacon and egg cheese, egg cheese, chicken, sausage and plain.” I wanted one of each but settled on a bacon and egg cheese with a cup of coffee.
All of the staff went out of their way to prepare my order and nobody rolled their eyes when I asked for a medium sized coffee instead of a Demi, Grande or Venti. My order came in a rush and it was hot and exactly what I ordered. And then I was asked if I wanted a hug with it.
I have. I did it a lot.
I had known about ESP for a long time, at least since I moved to the area. As fate would have it, I met a likeable young man named Alex Perry while waiting for the National Championship football game on my flight to Indianapolis.
(Did you know that on Jan. 10, Georgia defeated Alabama 33-18 to become the undisputed college football champion?)
Alex was about to accept a position as Director of Development and Marketing for ESP. I felt an immediate kinship with Alex and vowed to bond with him as soon as I returned from Indy. The path to hell and all that… I still don’t have it.
But I’ve finally seen firsthand the amazing and necessary and meaningful work that Extra Special People is doing. I will not be a stranger in the future. And I will be a regular at Java Joy. I’ve tried all types of cookies. I think they might have pastries too. I’ll try that out next week.
Why are you not coming? I’m there every morning at nine, but they’re open until two. Come by for the most positive experience you’ve had in a long time.
Don’t forget to get your hug.