Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolate Shop: Where Special Needs Adults Find Employment and Purpose

  From the outside, this looks like an ordinary coffee shop. The small store has six or seven tables, and the overall atmosphere is fresh and elegant. During the business hours from 9 am to 3 pm every weekday, customers are greeted with delicious coffee, fruit smoothies, brownie cookies, etc. This small shop in Fairfax County, Virginia, USA, is called “Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolate.” They are not an ordinary coffee shop, but an employment base – a place that provides full-time jobs for some adult “special” children.
  Allen and her husband Jim founded the coffee shop five years ago so that their daughter Cameron, who has intellectual disabilities, could have a place to work. At that time, Cameron attended training at the Davis Career Center after finishing high school at a local public high school. As part of Fairfax County Public Schools’ vocational training, the center provides job training for students like Cameron and then places them with employment opportunities in local partner businesses. It was then that Cameron discovered his passion for baking.
  When Cameron turns 22, she needs to withdraw from the Fairfax County Public School system. Ellen and Jim were busy looking for a bakery and dessert shop for their daughter to hire her, but they never found the right one. So they decided to open a store for their daughter. It took them a while, but they eventually found a storefront in Fairfax Mall, and just like that, the coffee shop named after their daughter Cameron was born. Today, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every working day, 28-year-old Cameron is in the store carefully organizing display cabinets, making chocolates and desserts, or greeting customers.
  At that time, in order to help more children like Cameron, Alan and Jim established a non-profit foundation dedicated to providing employment for “special” children of working age. “Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolate Shop” is the foundation’s first venture. There is a “parallel” working environment in the store: “special” children and able-bodied children work together. The store clerks are all recommended by the employment centers in their communities. They go through interviews, training, and finally become full-time employees. Store managers will delegate daily tasks to employees based on their preferences and abilities. Every day, a job coach is there to make sure the “special” employees are doing tasks they enjoy and can handle.
  In Allen’s view, the most positive significance of this project is that it allows these “special” children to unleash their potential and talents. “Every child is an angel, they are pure and real. Sometimes, their talents and talents even exceed those of able-bodied people. The combination of these special children and able-bodied children works very well.” Allen talked about these At this time, my eyes are full of care and happiness.
  For this group of “special” children, the bigger challenge is not whether they can make a cup of coffee or a delicious dessert, but serving all kinds of people. In this special coffee shop, the clerk on duty will open the door to communicate with customers with cups of fragrant coffee or pieces of delicious desserts. Each of the clerks here wears many hats. Not only did they receive vocational training, they mastered the skills of making coffee and roasting, and were able to skillfully complete the ordering process, they also learned to talk to customers. In situations other than cafes, they have People’s ability to communicate has also been significantly improved. Every day, many customers come to visit.
  When some customers come into contact with these “special” clerks for the first time, they will unconsciously speak softly like they would a four- or five-year-old child. Sometimes half of the coffee served was accidentally spilled and the paper towels in the tray were soaked. Customers also showed special tolerance for this. But this is not the “love” that Allen wants. Customers will not become repeat customers of the store just out of sympathy and love for the “special” employees. What they want to see is that customers come back again because of the coffee they drank or the chocolate chip cookies that were very well done. Great, let them make friends with these “special” employees over coffee.
  Now, the reputation of “Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolate Shop” is getting bigger and bigger, and more and more customers are coming to visit. Cameron and her friends wrote a line of words in front of the door: “Let every cup of coffee warm your heart.” This may be their most sincere voice.

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