MIDDLETOWN, N.J. — A new New Jersey restaurant has made its focus a very unique mission: almost exclusively hiring adults with developmental disabilities.
The unemployment rate among this population is high because after high school, opportunities are limited.
But No Limits Cafe in Middletown hopes to help change that.
"I got the job!" said Claire Digiorgio, 21, as she chopped onions in the kitchen. "I can’t wait for the cafe to open."
Digiorgio is one of 31 employees hired at the lunch cafe, cooking up soups, sandwiches and salads for paying customers.
They will open Wednesday for lunch reservations only, which can be made through their website here.
Professional chefs and volunteers are helping to train and guide each employee.
"You see the potential of so many people who were never given a chance," said chef Jackie Plant.
Co-founder Stephanie Cartier’s 21-year-old daughter has down syndrome. When she graduated from high school, they faced a daunting question: what next?
"When you turn 21, it’s called falling off the cliff," said Cartier. "And there’s not a lot of meaningful employment for people with intellectual disabilities, not a lot of college programs. So we decided, let’s figure out something to do."
The non-profit cafe will serve lunch everyday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. After hours, the cafe will provide training for people with disabilities in an effort to get them jobs at for-profit restaurants throughout the area.
"We’re hoping that community businesses look at this and give these kids an opportunity," said Joan Minnuies, a volunteer.