November 23, 2016  
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Proud to be a Papermaker

JAN BOTTIGLIERI

At the end of each year, the Paper360° team likes to remind readers why the industries served by our publication are truly special with a feature called “Proud to be a Papermaker.” While our companies and products contribute to global commerce, health, energy, technology, education, home environments, and more, it’s our people that truly make us proud.

The following is an excerpt from the “Proud to be a Papermaker” feature in the November/December issue of Paper360°.

Wake Up and Dream

When you wake up to a cup of Dreamers Coffee, you’re doing more than enjoying a delicious java jolt: you’re supporting an organization that helps raise awareness about the need for increased employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The dream began eleven years ago when John and Diane Grover moved their family to Georgetown, SC, where John had a new post as mill manager at the International Paper mill.

Diane, John, and Mary Ellen Grover


“When I showed up for my first day, the mill happened to be in an outage. There were about 1,200 contractors in the place, and I didn’t know who was IP and who was a contractor—you know how chaotic outages can be! The day I became mill manager, we closed on the house,” says John.

John had been on the job for only 10 days when Diane gave birth to their fifth child—their daughter Mary Ellen—and the Grovers learned that the baby had Down Syndrome. “Our next challenge was that we were told Mary Ellen was born with a hole in her heart, which is typical for children with Down Syndrome, and she needed open heart surgery,” John recalls.

Although the Grovers had barely arrived and knew no one in South Carolina, they were overwhelmed with support from the IP Georgetown community. The union president even came to the hospital when, at only six months old, Mary Ellen had her successful surgery. “We were getting support, and meals, and I had team members helping from every facet of the mill,” John says. “The mill did a charitable golf tournament every year, and they came to us and said that they wanted to do it for Down Syndrome.”

Over the next two years, the mill’s golf tournament raised more than US$50,000 for families affected by Down Syndrome. Working with Sharon Hughes, another Georgetown mill mom who also had a child with DS, Diane helped found a nonprofit group called the Grand Strand Down Syndrome Society. The Grovers moved to Memphis when Mary Ellen was two; in 2008, Diane founded the International Down Syndrome Coalition, an all-volunteer nationwide advocacy group. Diane devoted herself to volunteering until Mary Ellen was about nine years old. “I stepped away from advocacy work for a year,” she explains. “I told John, ‘I’m not doing anything unless it lands in my lap.’ Then Dreamers Coffee landed in my lap.”

While creating gift baskets to raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis, Diane met with local coffee roaster John Pitman of J. Brooks. “Their coffee is absolutely amazing, so I asked John if he was interested in donating coffee for the baskets. One thing led to another, and we began talking about a coffee blend that could be my very own—one that I could sell to raise awareness about the low employment numbers for individuals with a disability. This blend could perhaps help me to employ individuals of all abilities,” says Diane. “Dreamers Coffee was born!”

The online company sells the premium, fair-trade coffee and other items through virtual storefronts run by representatives of all abilities who Diane calls “Dreamers.” The company now has 33 stores online selling nationwide. They also operate a small retail operation inside Vantage Point Golf Center in Cordova, TN, a suburb of Memphis.

Says John, “I was a mill manager for International Paper in two locations, and I’ve worked in four mills for IP. The company creates a culture and community where people take care of each other. The way the Georgetown mill supported me—how they were there for my family in those tough times, how everyone worked together to help run the mill—that touched our souls.”

The Grovers hope that Mary Ellen, now 11, will someday run Dreamers. Says Diane, “She talks about coffee every day! At her learning center, I tell them, ‘no pressure, but just so you know: you’re preparing the next CEO of Dreamers Coffee.’” To learn more, visit www.dreamersmerchants.com.

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