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10/28/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/28/2020 13:31

How coffee inspired Brendon Todd's 'extra special' donation

'So, when I had the opportunity to last fall, it was the first one I thought of.'

Java Joy, though, is just one of the programs ESP offers to service kids, teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities. There are afternoon programs, summer camps and weekend activities to help develop confidence, social skills and relationships, as well as family support programs that include counseling, family dinner and other resources. There is no upper or lower age limit for participation, either.

Todd's donation, though, was earmarked for the younger kids that ESP serves. He made the grant early this year, at a time when Stewart says the organization was deep into planning for its summer camp program, which is open to anyone, regardless of a family's ability to contribute to the cost.

Then came March and COVID-19 upended life. Suddenly, the money Todd donated made 'even a bigger impact,' Stewart says.

With quarantines and shutdowns and unemployment rising, ESP was called upon to provide financial and food assistance that wasn't in the budget 'but it was something our parents told us they needed in the spring,' Stewart says. At the same time, staff was thinking ahead about how to safely hold summer camp when restrictions were lifted - splitting what would have been done at one location into six smaller ones.

'Where Brendon's donation was so significant is that we had about triple the amount of scholarship requests than a normal year this past summer,' Stewart says. 'And we didn't really know how we would be able to serve our families, but we knew that we needed to serve them. So, we went forward in courage and in faith that this program is important, and we need to serve every single family and we're not going to turn them away.

'So, having the donation from Brendon really helped us keep that promise to our families that we would serve them no matter what. ... It really came at a perfect time that we didn't even know about at the beginning of the year. So, it was really, really powerful and significant in not closing our doors and being able to serve every type of family this summer.'

Erica Andrews, who is the national expansion manager for the Java Joy program, says 87 percent of adults with developmental disabilities are unemployed right now although most are capable of working. They just haven't been given the opportunity.

Programs like Java Joy, which started with a janitorial cart, minus the mops, and now is active in four cities with coffee trucks, as well as carts, help not only employ the Joyristas but also show businesses what these adults are capable of.

Adults like Donna, a 55-year-old ESP participant who lives with her sister and who started working as a Joyrista last year. It was the first job she'd had in her life. Or adults like Hannah, who is in her 30s and can be headstrong at times, but she loves Java Joy so much that she puts her clothes out and sets her own alarm clock on the days she works.

'It doesn't surprise me that Brendon was impressed by them because it is so fun to be around,' Andrews says. 'The name joy honestly, doesn't do it justice. We were at an event this afternoon, just serving coffee dancing the whole time. ...

'These adults that we hire have something that I don't have and that you don't have. They bring joy to people. And I'm so sad that we cannot give hugs right now because it really is super remarkable -- just the interaction that you get when you break the physical barrier of what we're able to do.'

Andrews says having Todd show an interest in ESP and Java Joy means a lot to everyone associated with the non-profits.

'For us and for our participants and for those that do attend ESP, it feels like a celebrity status -- knowing that someone who they can find on TV and who they may never meet giving to them, it feels like a dream come true for most of them,' she says.

'And we do have a few male Joyristas who would geek out pretty hard if they had the chance to meet him.'