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Erin Baldwin prepares beans for roasting at Furnace Hills Coffee shop on Main Street in Westminster on Friday, October 11.
Erin Baldwin prepares beans for roasting at Furnace Hills Coffee shop on Main Street in Westminster on Friday, October 11. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

The beans roasted inside Furnace Hills Coffee serve a purpose greater than providing a caffeinated boost — they’re fundraising for the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk.

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and it’s one of the most special times of the year for the employees of Furnace Hills Coffee in Westminster. Throughout October, the business will donate $5 to the National Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk for every pound of Buddy Walk coffee sold, according to owner Dave Baldwin.

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There are 235 Buddy Walks across the United States, Baldwin said, and he has pledged to donate to the Buddy Walk geographically closest to each customer who buys a pound of Buddy Walk coffee. They also offer this fundraiser in March, since March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day — it also happens to be the birthday of two employees, Erin Baldwin and Chris Stonesifer.

Baldwin’s daughter Erin is the chief roaster at Furnace Hills Coffee and she has Down syndrome. Baldwin said he was inspired to start the business because of her. When they moved to Maryland, Erin needed a job and Baldwin learned it would take years if they waited for the state to find one for her.

“One thing led to another and we started roasting coffee," Baldwin said. “We did it for her.”

Dave Baldwin, owner of Furnace Hills Coffee, and his daughter Erin at their shop on Main Street in Westminster on Friday, October 11. They created a coffee blend called Buddy Walk, with proceeds benefiting the Buddy Walks locally and across the country.
Dave Baldwin, owner of Furnace Hills Coffee, and his daughter Erin at their shop on Main Street in Westminster on Friday, October 11. They created a coffee blend called Buddy Walk, with proceeds benefiting the Buddy Walks locally and across the country. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

Growing the business, Baldwin has made a point to hire people like Erin, people who have different abilities and are also hard workers. One of those employees is Stonesifer, who has been with the company six years.

“What keeps me going is the fact that I still enjoy it," Stonesifer said. “When I started working here I had no idea how the coffee business was run."

Now you’ll find Stonesifer running the coffee machines like a pro and spouting off recipes from memory, including his favorite, the Berry White.

One October afternoon, Texan Hayleigh Young stopped in Furnace Hills Coffee to try the brew. She was in town visiting family and her online search for coffee led her to 71 W. Main St., she said.

“It’s good. I never had a fruity coffee, but it’s good," Young said of the Berry White.

Baldwin describes the business as “special coffee roasted by special people.”

“Everyone’s like family here,” said Kym Thorpe, an employee of three years.

Baldwin said hiring people with developmental disabilities is better for business and the employees, producing a better workplace culture and bottom line.

“Really, hiring them is a favor to you,” he said.

Erin Baldwin pours roasted coffee beans into a bin at Furnace Hills Coffee shop on Main Street in Westminster on Friday, October 11.
Erin Baldwin pours roasted coffee beans into a bin at Furnace Hills Coffee shop on Main Street in Westminster on Friday, October 11. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

Baldwin estimates Furnace Hills Coffee has donated between $8,000 and $9,000 to Buddy Walks since they started the fundraiser about eight years ago. As of Oct. 11, Baldwin put this month’s fundraising efforts in the ballpark of $300, but that number usually soars toward the end of the month, he said. They’ve had people buy coffee all over the country through online sales and even had some customers as far away as Singapore, according to Baldwin. The majority of their revenue comes from online sales and trips to the farmers market, Baldwin said, though they have their fair share of regular customers on West Main Street.

When it’s not October or March, those who buy Buddy Walk coffee are still helping the cause, as Baldwin continues to donate a portion of revenue to the National Down Syndrome Society and local Buddy Walks in the off months, splitting donations between the two, he said. The Buddy Walk coffee — a blend of two South American beans — comes in regular, decaf, and dark roast. Furnace Hills Coffee has approximately 25 roasts total, according to Baldwin.

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For more information about Furnace Hills Coffee or to buy the Buddy Walk blend, visit furnacehillscoffee.com or follow the business on Facebook.

A coffee blend called Buddy Walk, created by Furnace Hills Coffee. Sales of Buddy Walk coffee benefit the Buddy Walks locally and across the country.
A coffee blend called Buddy Walk, created by Furnace Hills Coffee. Sales of Buddy Walk coffee benefit the Buddy Walks locally and across the country. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)
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