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Employing young adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities

in partnership with Employed and Overjoyed (Spencer's Place)
Project location: Surprise, Arizona, United States

I was a high school special education teacher for 16 years. Part of my curriculum was a transition program for our students to move into adulthood. We created mock jobs, applications, interviews, and scenarios to help them acquire a job. After graduating, however, it became evident that individuals with disabilities rarely get hired. 

In 2019, I stepped away from my teaching career to establish Employed and Overjoyed Foundation, a non-profit that is committed to helping young adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) find and retain employment. We work with local businesses and day programs to help employers realize the benefits of this untapped workforce who are capable, focused, and friendly. 

Employed and Overjoyed also supports Spencer's Place, a coffee shop in Surprise, AZ. Spencer's Place is an inclusive coffee shop designed to employ individuals with IDD. Our mission is to train and empower young adults with IDD and to provide the community with an experience that is heart changing. We are a neighborhood shop that captivates locals as well as travelers from the surrounding cities. For many of our employees this is their first job. 

In 2020, amid a pandemic, we had over 100 applicants and therefore decided to institute an internship program solely designed to recruit and train. The internship piece focuses on work readiness skills such as eye contact, voice inflection, and social appropriation. In the short 9 months of implementing the internship program, 90% of our interns have moved into paid positions at Spencer's Place or other places of employment. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability is more than 80% worldwide. Many employers do not have the time, training, or resources to understand the needs of this workforce. Finding an employer who is receptive to an interview is often the hardest step for these individuals. Without services or job skills, many are home alone, lonely, unfulfilled, and longing for purpose. 

Spencer's Place has over 100 applications for those seeking employment. Spencer's Place will provide additional job coaches, specific instruction, and ongoing training for these interns. This project will help provide vocational training courses for new employees which will include obtaining a food handlers certificate. Funds will also be used to facilitate the internship program for those seeking job-related skills and potential employment at Spencer’s Place. We will also continue to foster business relationships within the surrounding community and opening future locations. Our goal is to empower and provide a sense of purpose that is life altering. Thank you for being part of this mission. 

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook @spencersplaceaz

$6,450 of $20,000 goal

$3,225 // donated

$3,225 // matched

Chris York
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