By Guest Blogger Kaley Barenkamp
This time last year, a group of Winston-Salem locals sat around a coffee table with one common question: what would happen if we put our talent, time and community connections together to create an opportunity that would provide meaningful employment for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD)? Since that daydream, Moji: Coffee and More came to life, but it didn’t happen overnight.
This is the story of the Moji: coffee that gives everyone a voice.
More than 80% of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed. Uncovering this statistic was jarring, but what was even more impactful was understanding how little has actually been done to help bridge this gap. The IDD community has a hard time finding jobs, but not because they don’t want to work – simply because of stigma. People with special needs, referred to as the invisible minority, often exist in the shadows. Many of us simply don’t interact with people with special needs, so the stigma – and their unemployment rates – remain.
Moji Coffee + More is a non-profit coffee shop with one goal: to change the way people value other people. Moji will be a place where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can earn a living while interacting with and serving our community through fulfilling employment.
The most “special” thing about people with disabilities is their desire to serve others. These people want to work; they want to serve their community. They want to interact with people. They want to be fulfilled, and they want to make money! Moji is a way for them to do all of those things.
Moji is also focused on the impact it can have on our community. We believe that true joy comes from a community that sees our differences as something worth celebrating. Moji isn’t your typical coffee shop; we are a pathway for acceptance and opportunity.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities make up 10% of the world’s population, but the unfortunate reality is that the majority of people have little to no interaction with people with disabilities, and that’s a real tragedy. There is real value when you connect with people who are different than you, and that’s what Moji aims to do.
So, where are we in the process? Right now, fundraising is in full swing. We’ve hosted a few “see the space” events, coffee socials, and are about to start demo and upfit. Between support from the county and local foundations, we’ve raised more than $80,000 – covering upfit costs of the space, but there is so much more to cover! If we hit our goal of raising $250,000 for total start-up costs, we’re on track to open late fall of 2018.
The best metric, though, has been each time a person with special needs stops us to say they can’t wait to work at Moji. And the tears in their parents’ eyes as they hug us and say thanks.
To read other blogs in our “Doing Good Things Series,” click here!
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