The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) recently launched a new initiative along the lines of what we’ve been discussing here. Sunday and Monday Erin & I attended the 2016 Buddy Walk Conference. #DSWORKS was talked about a lot during the workshops and plenaries.

The group organized to march on Washington with the message that those with Down syndrome add much to the workplace and deserve the opportunity to work in the marketplace. The picture below was one of those sessions where we discussed the need fCfsyGnuWwAE9f_ior advocacy for those with Down syndrome entering the workforce.

I believe Furnace Hills Coffee is a unique business that provides an environment for those with developmental disabilities to shine and make a difference in the lives of many as they roast special coffee. Many of the men and women we met this past weekend with Down syndrome were making that kind of difference in their workplaces.

We were there representing our Buddy Walk Coffee blend. We serve those doing Buddy Walks and raising funds for their local Down syndIMG_3390rome associations. We had a great reception. Here’s Erin serving at our display. She was awesome. Lots of people enjoyed their conversations with her. Erin is a great advocate for our coffee products. She was also drinking as much as she was handing out — well not really — but did drink her fair share.

Find our Buddy Walk Products Below. A portion of every sale goes to support those with Down syndrome:

Buddy Walk Coffees: http://www.furnacehillscoffee.com/charities-online/

Remember our Special Coffee is Roasted by Special People.




Hiring those with Developmental Disabilities is a matter of Leadership!

Last time we posted I discussed how my hunch that hiring people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) was key to a business’ success. It wasn’t an option. If a company is going to be all they can be then they need to hire those with IDD.

I ran across an empirical study that backed up my hunch. With permission of the research company we have put the research on our website as a free item you can order. Since it’s a PDF file you can down load it immediately. Report by the Institute for Corporate Productivity

I’ll be unpacking this great research over the next couple of weeks. Don’t forget that our special people at Furnace Hills Coffee roast special coffee. We believe we have the best coffee you can purchase, so shop for some today on our website (www.furnacehillscoffee.com).

Key findings
Survey analysis of organizations that employ people with intellectual and developmental disabilities found:
1) Companies hire people with IDD for business reasons and are rewarded with business benefits.
Multiple dividends are cited, including the addition of highly motivated employees, demonstrating an inclusive and diverse culture that’s attractive to critical talent pools, and improving customer satisfaction.
2) The profile of a worker with IDD reads like that of an ideal employee.
Descriptors of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities include: dependable, engaged, motivated, great attendance, attention to work quality, and high productivity.
3) Positive reactions from employers abound.
Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed say hiring workers with IDD has been a positive experience, and of those, nearly one-third say the experience has exceeded their expectations.
4) Challenges are fewer than expected and resources are greater than anticipated.
Employers report minimal difficulty with preconceived challenges, while support resources for a successful placement—like job profile matching and guided onboarding—are readily available.
Analysis of the data also revealed that success related to hiring workers with IDD is reflective of the level of commitment an organization has to diversity and inclusion (D&I). Integrating D&I as part of the overall organizational strategy—as opposed to addressing it as part of a compliance initiative, a general corporate social responsibility strategy, or simply not addressing it at all—is a critical first step—one that also has a positive
connection to market performance.

What do you think of this research? Does it change the way you think of hiring those with IDD? Can we work together to change the workplace landscape in America?

A Matter of Leadership — Hiring those with Developmental Disabilities

In my last blog I bragged about our three employees who have developmental disabilities. I compared them with those who are “normal” (Who really is normal?) and stated that ours stack up with the best.

So that got me thinking. Could this premise be true, Not having at least one person on your payroll with developmental disabilities makes you not as good as you could be if you did. Does that make sense? In other words if a company does not hire those with developmental disabilities they are choosing not to be as good as they could possibly be. To back up my premise I was scouring the internet for resources that might make my point. I found this one quoted below. It’s just the first three paragraphs, but it makes my point. I’ve included the link so you can read the article in its entirety.

Some of the world’s largest companies have launched initiatives to hire individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). For many businesses, it may have begun as a philanthropic project or public relations effort to repair their images in the community.

But these employers, large and small, are amazed to find that hiring these individuals amounts to far more than a feel-good gesture. It amounts to a smart business decision with enormous dividends.

Companies are rewarded with loyal employees with resilient work ethics and positive attitudes that are instilled into the entire team. The work environment becomes more inclusive and customers who frequent these businesses even report higher levels of satisfaction.

Pledging “I’m In To Hire” Individuals With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities

This blog post is just touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why employers should hire adults with developmental disabilities. Over the next several weeks I’ll be unpacking a report that supports this hunch I have about adding those with developmental disabilities to your work force is a benefit for your company.

So what about where you live. We live in Carroll County, Maryland. In talking to professionals at Good Will and the ARC they say there are 100’s of individuals with developmental disabilities that are unemployed in our county alone. Armed with excellent empirical data we can make the case for every business in our county to hire someone with a developmental disability. It’s a wise business decision.

In the mean time don’t forget about Furnace Hills Coffee. We have three talented dedicated adults who add so much to our coffee roasting business. Let’s spread the word that we want to improve the lot of businesses in our county, state and country by making sure they employ one of our children, friends, those who can add value to the commerce of this country.

Click on the picture below of Erin and order some of the best coffee you’ll ever taste in this region of the world. Roasted by Erin, Chris & Jason! We are so proud of them!

Erin & Sonofresco

A Matter of Leadership — Special Coffee or Special People or Both!

It has been a while since posting on this website. I have decided to start sharing on a regular basis our balance between coffee and people. You see Furnace Hills Coffee was started to provide jobs for people with developmental disabilities. Today we employ three people with developmental disabilities:

  • Erin has Down syndrome
  • Jason has Cerebral Palsy
  • Chris is Autistic

Our challenge to ourselves has been to roast the best coffees available showing the world that these disabilities don’t slow down our employees and in fact we can compete with anyone in the marketplace. I believe we are proving that challenge true! I truly believe that these three individuals roast and package some of the best specialty coffee you can drink in the USA. First let’s talk about what makes these three so special then later this week we’ll talk about why the coffee they roast is so special.

Special People:

  • Erin: She has a passion for roasting special coffee. She calls our roastery her shop. When she can’t go into work she cries and tells me, “I have to work, that’s my job.” How many people do you know cry when they can’t go to work? How many people do you know call where they work their company? If we don’t get at least ten orders overnight she us upset and is concerned that there may be nothing for her to do that day. She loves the coffee named after her, Erin’s Breakfast Blend. In fact she calls it, “My Breakfast Blend.” Do you know of anyone who approaches there work like Erin does?
  • Jason: He loves working at Furnace Hills Coffee. He has a passion to see us succeed. He calls on organizations and companies who may be able to use our coffee in his spare time. He wants to be a part of ever special event we do. He comes to work happy and puts his full energy into all he does. Jason has Cerebral Palsy. Yet that has not stopped him from doing everything in the shop. He has learned work arounds when it comes to the tasks he’s been asked to perform. And he does it with joy! When did you know of an employee who worked on his/her own time to make the company a success?
  • Chris: Do your employees or co-workers include a secret ingredient in their work? Chris does. He includes a pinch of love. Wouldn’t it be great if our co-workers said something like this, “I have the presentation done all it needs now is a pinch of love.” That’s Chris for you. He’s another one who cries when he can’t come to work. Did you ever cry when you couldn’t come to work?

I will measure our special people against your people any day and I do believe we will come out on top.

Check out our story here: Furnace Hills Story

Thursday we’ll discuss the rest of the team and what makes them so special. Don’t worry we’ll get around to this special coffee we roast. The best in the world! It is a matter of leadership!


The Beginning of a Movement:

Furnace Hills Coffee Company has become a movement. So many friends and family & a fair amount of strangers have become a part of our lives. I thought it would be good to share how all this started. The funny thing is any family with a child who is developmentally disabled can do the same thing. In fact we are looking for families to partner with in this grand endeavor of giving our daughter the best life she can live with God’s help.

And So It Begins:

I was on a short-term mission trip in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I had just put the phone back on its pedestal after a twenty-minute conversation with my wife. She was in the Midwest and was ending her day with our daughter. Louise was weeping because of the struggle she sensed in our daughter, Erin, and the growing conviction we needed to bring her home. Erin was no longer the happy person she was when we took her to this place thirteen years ago. It was time that something had to be done. So that evening we both agreed Erin needed to move back home with us.

In talking with the state we live in those who work with the developmentally disabled believed it could be ten years before funding would be available for Erin to find a job. Although we believed Erin sitting home with us was better than where she had been living we felt we should try to start something for her to do. Several ideas went through our minds, but nothing materialized. Erin has Down Syndrome and lives with a number of limitations cognitively  but one thing she enjoys is productive work. So we were casting about for what she could do.

The answer came from an unlikely source. Jim Kales CEO of Aspire — an organization that works with the developmentally disabled from birth to the grave — started following me on twitter announcing a new business they were starting. Aspire is in Chicago, IL. He was announcing the start of a coffee roasting business. I thought, If developmentally disabled people can roast coffee in Chicago, why not in Maryland too! So we bought our first roasters — small home roasters to begin with — and green coffee beans and started roasting coffee in our kitchen. April of 2010 was the start of our roasting endeavors and by September of that year we were a legally created roasting company and had started looking for another place to roast coffee. I figured my wife needed her kitchen, dining room and lower level of her home back.

Erin's Roastery

Erin’s Roastery

So that’s how we started our coffee roasting business & how great disappointment & frustration can turn into hope and freedom for a family. Erin loves roasting coffee. She is very possessive of her job. On Sunday afternoons at some point she will say, “Tomorrow I go to work!”

On Monday I’ll share the half steps that have brought success to our coffee roasting business. For those of you thinking of starting a business or have a relative with developmental disabilities you won’t want to miss it! By the way visit our website and see what kinds of coffee Erin roasts today! http://furnacehillscoffee.com 



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Great Location:

I really haven’t commented on the picture at the top of the blog. This is going to be the new location for Furnace Hills Coffee Company. Hopefully we’ll be roasting coffee in this place come May 16th. That’s our new target date now. Our first target was March 1st, so not too far off when you think of spending years in this location roasting great coffee.

Our by line has become, “Special Coffee Roasted by Special People.” That continues to be our mission. We are excited about how Erin loves to roast coffee. Last week on a Tuesday — a day when our other roaster Lia is not here — Erin stated, “I must roast coffee today!” She spent that day roasting our South American De-Caf and Bolivian Superior coffees. Last week she stood in the middle of the roastery and said, “I like this place.” God has done a miracle in Erin’s life and ours as well as we think of how productive and happy she is these days.

This new location is a continuation of the dream God has given us not only for Erin, but others who are developmentally disabled.  We continue to support ministry partners in Ukraine who are working with developmentally disabled orphaned boys as well as community development in Southeast Asia. We want to get our production to a point where we can hire more developmentally disabled people in our roastery.

The Farmers’ Market season begins soon, so be looking for us at the Westminster Farmers’ Market. We’ve been invited to a couple other ones and we are figuring out how we can take those on as well.

Please check us out at http://www.furnacehillscoffee.com. We’ll keep you up-to-date as to how the build out of our roastery goes. This is a great location because it’s right in down town Westminster, MD amid the hustle and bustle of this little town. Many are excited to see us coming to Main Street. We’ll let you know when we open so you can stop by for a tour. We are at 71 West Main Street.

Well that’s this leader’s view.



Easter Sunday & Other Thoughts:

I am continually amazed at the fact that the God of the universe is mindful of us. He loves us so much and cares about us to the point that He didn’t leave us without hope. The coming of Jesus and His life, crucifixion, and resurrection are testament to that. And you and me, if we are followers of Jesus, have the supreme privilege of being a part of His plan of redemption for the world.

Have you ever thought about where He has placed you in His Kingdom. He has you where you are for a reason. Can you thank Him for that? Can you commit yourself anew to His plans for You. This is a great weekend to renew our love and dedication to the mission and vision God has for each one of our lives.

At LifePoint Church we are having five Easter services this weekend. We have two today (4:30 & 6:15 pm) and tomorrow we have three (8:15, 10:00 & 11:45 am). If you are in the area and can make it to one of our worship gatherings I encourage you to do just that. Look me up. Would love to chat for a bit. Special weekends at LifePoint are always memorable. I can’t wait to experience the gatherings this weekend.

Other Thoughts:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our daughter Erin. I’ve been thinking about her aptitudes and abilities. People with Down Syndrome are usually marked by their disabilities. Let me share one ability Erin has:

We gave Erin an iPod touch for Christmas. It has a 32 gig capacity. We got one that big because of the amount of music Erin has on cd’s. Well when we gave it to her, she wanted no help in figuring it out. And sure enough she was able to access music and choose music to play and has had a GREAT time listening to it. In fact we wondered if we created a bit of a monster because she carries it around the house with her listing to her music, many times without head phones.

Well about a month ago she discovered the camera on the iPod. So just a couple of days ago I down loaded to my computer 162 pictures Erin took. In fact she figured out how to use both cameras on the unit, so she takes pictures of herself and others. I thought I’d include a few below. So when you think of people with disabilities, first think of their abilities!

Do you know some one with a developmental disability? Share with us what that person’s abilities are!

Have a great Easter weekend!

Erin's Picture of Me

Erin's Self Portrait