Java Joy, Extra Special People, disabilities, coffee, joy, Darlington School, V3, readv3

Amy and Gaines Dempsey - Photos by Andy Calvert

Joy and acceptance are two things that most people can agree should be more widespread in today’s world. With Java Joy, husband and wife team Gaines and Amy Dempsey hope to bring more of both to Rome.

Java Joy’s parent organization, Extra Special People (ESP), is a non-profit whose goal is “to create transformative experiences for people with disabilities and their families, changing communities for the better.” Java Joy, a mobile coffee cart that can be hired for events and businesses, accomplishes this by employing people with disabilities in a customer-service role. This experience benefits both the employees and the customers, Amy says. “Many adults with disabilities have trouble finding employment that fits them. This is the type of job where these adults are encouraged to be who they are and are recognized for their ability, not their disability, she says. “They have so much to offer, and so often they’re not given the chance. They’ve got something that you and I don’t have. People come get coffee and they leave happier.”

Amy and Gaines Dempsey

The Dempseys have three children, one of whom has a disability, so this mission hits close to home for them. In a quest for more programming for children with disabilities, they discovered ESP and Java Joy, and they decided that the Java Joy model could be successful in Rome. 

“We wanted to see Rome be better,” Amy says. “We would love to change the way people in Rome engage with people with disabilities. There are so many people who have never had an encounter with someone with disabilities. We would love for Java Joy to be a catalyst to help people change their attitudes.”

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After working on this project for a year and a half, the Dempseys opened Java Joy Rome on October 26 with an event at Darlington School, their alma mater. Head of School Brent Bell said that he felt like Darlington would be a great place for Java Joy’s first event. 

“We believe in what the organization is all about, we love the concept, and we feel like it’s great for our families to know about Java Joy,” he says. “I think it’s important that we celebrate the abilities of everyone. They spread joy and kindness… I think the example is one that should resonate with all of us.”

The event on October 26 kicked off a week of events for Rome’s new coffee cart, which saw two to three events per day. Java Joy Rome has employed 15 adults with disabilities so far. Sergio, who works taking orders as a Joyrista, says that the week was busy, but it was fun. “It’s a great job,” he says. “I like working with customers.”

Java Joy Rome has partnered with Lumina Coffee Co. to serve Lumina coffee at events. The cart is available for all kinds of events and organizations: businesses, churches, schools, and more. According to Amy, the organization hiring the cart sponsors it so that the coffee is free to customers at the event. Customers order coffee or hot chocolate from the Joyristas and have an opportunity for a photo after they receive their drink. 

For more information on bringing Java Joy to your next event, contact Java Joy’s Rome City Coordinator Shannon Alley at, visit or follow them at or on Instagram.