Baristas with developmental disabilities making brilliant coffee

Employees at the Coffee Shed's Surrey Place Centre location, from back left to front right: Mimi Yickman Yiu, Rachel Boardman, Paul Wong, Alexander Saab, Andrew Mathew.

At a local Toronto coffee shop, a group of baristas as tight-knit as you’ll ever find, brew up delicious coffee.  But more than that, the staff here are given purpose, life-skills, and a chance to make genuine connections with their peers.

 At the Coffee Shed, all of the baristas have developmental disabilities. And, thanks to an ingenious social enterprise model, they also run the place.

The Coffee Shed is part of the Common Ground Co-operative, which operates three such coffee kiosks in Toronto, a bakery called Lemon and Allspice that supplies the Coffee Sheds with their sweet treats, and a newly added toy-sanitization company, which sanitizes toys used in children’s behavioural therapy programs. The goal is for adults with developmental disabilities to call the shots and create their own workplace community: after training and apprenticing, staff members can get voted in as a “partner.” They draw an income and run the place as a business partnership.

And for the record — the coffee’s great.

Jennifer Warren, CBC

Check out this radio piece and article for more information, and how to support the Common Grounds Co-operative at their three Coffee Shed locations, and their upcoming bowl-a-thon fundraiser.

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