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SLO County kids sing their hearts out for humanity's sake



When Willy Wonka finds out how much chocolate sold in America comes from cocoa beans harvested by workers treated as slaves, he might choke on an Everlasting Gobstopper.

After months of searching for globally conscious fundraising opportunities, the Central Coast Children’s Choir partnered with two local chocolatiers who sell fair-trade certified confections—The Joycup Co. and Sweet Earth Chocolates—for its annual spring fundraiser.

HEART-WARMING, MOUTH-WATERING :  The chocolates being sold by the Central Coast Children’s Choir are delicious and socially responsible. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • HEART-WARMING, MOUTH-WATERING : The chocolates being sold by the Central Coast Children’s Choir are delicious and socially responsible.

“When the CCCC Board become aware of the child slavery issues surrounding a good part of the commercial chocolate industry, we decided to change directions,” said CCCC fundraising chair Debby Swenson.

Fair trade promotes communal benefits and unity; it brings money to farmers for a host of commodities. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, fair trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms for farmers and workers in the developing world.

McCall said there are currently 110 kids placed into six choruses—debut, boys, apprentice, premiere, concert choir, and advanced vocal ensemble—that have been warbling locally since 1994.

Based in Cayucos, Joycup owner Danna Joy Dykstra-Coy creates an environmentally friendly product called Joycups.

“This is really where my heart is,” said Dykstra-Coy, who once worked as a crime reporter, then as a probation officer.

She’s been hand-making chocolate treats for 24 years.

“I had depressing work, and making peanut butter cups made me happy,” she said.

Dykstra-Coy assembles Joycups in the Los Osos vegan hangout Be Love Café. Ingredients include organic peanuts, Guittard chocolate, and raw honey from Stoltey Bee Farm in Atascadero. She adds flavor by sprinkling merlot or vanilla bean sea salt into a fruit-infused filling. Once the cups are ready, she packages them in recycled boxes and biodegradable wrapping.

The Joycup Co.’s partner-in-chocolate, Sweet Earth Chocolates, sells 100 percent organic, fair-trade-certified chocolates. Tom Neuhaus and Joanne Currie own and operate the Monterey Street delicatessen.

Neuhaus is the resident chocolate guru in the Cal Poly Food Science and Nutrition Department, which boasts the nation’s first collegiate fair-trade chocolate enterprise, which began in 2000.

West African countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast produce 75 percent of the world’s cocoa, Neuhaus said, and harvesters often endure the “worst forms of child labor,” such as hauling bags twice their weight, missing school, and operating insecticide sprayers.

The choir’s fundraiser is the final opportunity for the nonprofit to raise money. A variety of gourmet chocolates are available: solid, milk, or bittersweet chocolate Easter bunnies; hazelnut Easter eggs filled with ganache, vanilla crème, peanut butter, or dark chocolate; and Joycups hinting of lemon/blueberry or olallieberry/raspberry flavors.

Prices range from a $5 Joybox to $24 Easter baskets. All proceeds go back into the Central Coast Children’s Choir program. Order by calling 541-5323. Additional order forms can be requested through For more information about the local chocolatiers, visit or

Fast fact

On April 30, the Second Chance at Love Humane Society and Clayhouse Wines host Doggie Days in the Vineyard at Clayhouse’s estate Red Cedar Vineyard. The walk through the vineyard begins at 10:30 a.m. Cost to participate is $35 for one dog, $60 for two. Sign up online at or by phone at 434-3982. More information is available at

Intern Anthony Pannone compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send comments to

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