Adults with disabilities show they have ‘no limits’ at NJ eateries
Adults with developmental disabilities have much more potential and talent than most New Jerseyans may believe.
To help limit that false notion, and ensure the disabled community itself understands its worth, a handful of eateries in New Jersey have made it their mission to primarily hire this population.
"They impress me all the time. I believe that employees with developmental disabilities are this country's greatest untapped resource," said Brandi Fishman, CEO of Breaking Grounds Coffee & Cafe, located in Mount Holly.
The nonprofit opened its doors in December 2017, offering paid jobs to adults with developmental disabilities who would be tasked with everything from janitorial to managerial duties.
"They show up with a great attitude everyday, and they are so grateful for the opportunity to work and to interact with the customers," Fishman said, noting neurotypical employees are usually on hand as well.
Thirty-six out of 36 developmentally disabled interviewees were hired at minimum wage for a job at No Limits Cafe, a Middletown eatery that's still in training mode before opening to the public.
Tom Hedden, 26, of Keansburg, takes two buses each day to help in the kitchen of the cafe.
"It feels great. It feels awesome," Hedden said.
Co-founder Stephanie Cartier, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, said the eatery gets calls and emails everyday from individuals in the developmentally disabled population who are looking for jobs. The cafe will likely dip into that pool of candidates when it gets a better idea of schedules and staffing shortages.
"Our mission is to empower adults with intellectual disabilities by providing jobs and job training to help them lead fulfilling lives within their community and increase awareness of their potential," Cartier said. "They do everything, because they can."
Cartier said much of the financial burden of opening a restaurant was relieved either through donations or heavily discounted contracts.
Before a formal opening sometime soon, the eatery opens its doors a couple days a week to invited guests so the staff can get a feel for the real deal, and customers can offer their suggestions.
"We feed them and they feedback," Cartier said.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.