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New Coffee Business Seeks to Help Others Thrive

To thrive means to flourish, to grow, and to prosper within a situation. But Chesterfield County Special Education teacher, Keri Lee, noticed an increasing number of her former students weren’t being given the opportunities necessary to do just that following high school graduation. Students, she noticed, where having a hard time finding jobs and securing training in a real-world environment once they left the school system. In short, they lacked a situation in which they could thrive, and so she set out to create one. 

The Thrive Foundation was established a year ago, during the summer of 2019 with a mission dedicated to developing the skills of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through employment, education, and training. Managed entirely by Keri and her son, Collin, the 501c3, initially endeavored to establish Thrive Coffee, coffee shop whereby these individuals could garner the real-world experience and training in an effort to help them thrive. 

This spring, Keri and Collin had a location for Thrive Coffee picked out, contractors lined up, and then coronavirus hit. Like so many businesses, they were forced to pivot before they’d even gotten started. 

“It came upon me to figure out what we could do to continue to serve this underserved community and to continue our mission,” said Collin who is a rising junior at University of Miami when he’s not working on the business with his mom.

The result was Thrive Coffee Roasting which launched in May of 2020. The small-batch roastery allows The Thrive Foundation to continue fulfilling its mission until they are able to safely open a shop. As they ramp up operations this month, they aim to employ 10-15 staff members who will not only be paid a fair wage, but also gain experience.

“We want this experience to serve as a learning opportunity. It’s an entry level position that they can grow from and gain skills that they will then be able to apply to other jobs,” said Collin.

Keri and Collin Lee at Chesterfield Farmer's Market

Thrive Coffee offers a selection of blends as well as single-origin beans from Colombia, Kenya and Brazil. The bags are available for purchase via their website as well as through various area farmers markets.

For more information visit their website, thriverva.org.  

Photo Credit: Kristi K. Higgins/Progress-Index.com

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