MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Whether it is a pastry or a cappuccino being served up, at Our Grounds, the mission is all about the team.
“We have wonderful, wonderful trainees on site, today we have Jenny here with us, she has been here with us from the start,” says founder, Vanessa Vila. She opened this café this summer in Kendall. It is more than a job, it is a calling.
Our Grounds is a non-profit corporation that runs a vocational training site and coffee shop for young adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
“I’m an occupational therapist and have worked in the field with transitioning adults and teens. I realized that there was an enormous need for vocational opportunities for these adults to really thrive.”
And thriving they are. These young adults with cognitive or intellectual disabilities work part-time, alongside Vanessa a few days a week, with each job tailored to them.
“This is a good fit for Jenny, a part-time place that she can learn hands-on experience and counting money and dealing with customers,” Vila said.
Jenny enthusiastically greets customers and rings up their purchases. She says she feels happy around here and she really loves her boss.
Nationally, the majority of adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities are unemployed, despite their longing and ability to work.
“After age 22 these young adults don’t have any more services available to them, so they are on their own to find opportunities,” Vila says.
When asked why she thought it was so hard for businesses to offer them jobs, Vila stated, “there’s a lot of stigmas attached to disabilities. I want to change the community’s perspective on how we view disabilities.”
Brian Schwartz met Vila at the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. He has a degree in math from UM and this is his first job.
“It feels good. I like being productive, I get to help people, and I like to see the smile on the customers’ faces.”
The barista loves making coffees and learning about the history of coffee. With his first job, he has also reached another milestone that he is very proud of. He learned how to drive on the highway, to get to his new job, and that has opened him up to driving to more places he says.
That show of confidence is exactly what Vila hopes others will see.
“We don’t like to focus on their disabilities we like to focus on their abilities. I like to say positivity and hard work is one of their major strengths,” Vila says.
For customers and the employees, beyond the cozy café atmosphere and a caffeine fix, a visit to Our Grounds has a lasting effect.
“We are working hard all day every day, but most days you just walk away inspired and happy,” Vila says.
Jenny sums it up stating, “I love her so much she is the most amazing boss ever,” she says with a big smile.
Our Grounds is a not for profit, located at 10714 SW 113 Place in Kendall.