Naperville Coffeehouse Brews Up Opportunities for Adults With Developmental Disabilities

January 25, 2022
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Brewing Up Opportunities

With their aprons tied and the coffee machines ready to brew, those at Awesome Life Academy are ready to get to work. The nonprofit organization that serves those with developmental disabilities partnered with Phoenix Coffee House to provide them a place of employment.

“They’ll be working in teams of three,” said Jerrod Nichols, owner of Phoenix Coffee House. “So there’ll always be a manager on duty here and then two other employees working the cash register, helping make coffee, cleaning that sort of stuff.”

Creating meaningful employment opportunities was always part of the plan for founder and president of Awesome Life Academy, Brandon Quaintance. The organization’s goal is to provide recreational, educational, and vocational training and skills to its clients.

“There are two kinds of limitations. There are the limitations that you have to adapt for, and we can do that,” said Quaintance. “And then there are the perceived limitations. By building the confidence and gaining the skills that they need, they can overcome those perceived limitations and I see that, we see that, every single day.”

Once the coffee shop is open, employees will work a minimum of one hour a week, but have the option to do more if they’d like. “My favorite part about working at the coffee shop is getting my tips,” said employee Ashley McLeod.

Closing the Gap

Nichols said there’s a gap between the time when the young adults age out of the school system and transition to adult services. “These kids don’t need to be staying at home,” said Nichols. “They can do so much more. They have so much potential. And so if our community sees that, that means the world to me.”

Craig Herzberger’s son, Tim, is staying active by working two jobs. He’ll be on hand at the coffee shop three days a week. “Young adults with disabilities have so much to offer the community. And this is just another opportunity for them to learn a skill and to show others how productive they can be,” said Herzberger.

The coffee shop is hiring those 16 and older. Part of the work will also include delivering coffee to the other businesses in their building, as well as eventually offering curbside pickup.

Open in February

Phoenix Coffee House plans to open the week of February 7, Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., then 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located at 2244 W 95th Street in Naperville.

Awesome Life Academy has also partnered up with Touch My Heart, a nonprofit organization in Naperville that has assisted therapy with chickens right in their backyard.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.