By Jessica Easthope
The day starts for employees at “No Limits Café,” with what they call the “pump-up session.”
But that’s not the only thing that makes the restaurant unique – it only employs adults with intellectual disabilities.
“Our mission is to give people with intellectual disabilities meaningful employment and to empower them and to show everybody else in the community what they’re capable of which is a lot,” explained Stephanie Cartier, the co-founder of No Limits Café.
She and her husband Mark decided to use their own experiences as motivation to make a much-needed change in their community.
“Our daughter Katie has down syndrome. You can stay in the school system until you’re 21 in the United States,” she explained. “And when she was 18 we said, ‘Okay, what’s going to happen because that part of their life is called ‘falling off the cliff.'”
Now, the newly opened café is helping others just like Katie. Employees take orders, prep food and serve, and they’re all doing it for their own reasons.
“I get paid, like a lot of money, and I can’t wait to show my friends and family,” said employee Claire Digiorgio.
Some, like Hayley Lawrence, love the independence.
“This is the first job that I can do stuff all by myself. I don’t need help,” she said.
Others, like Tom Hedden, do it to feel a sense of purpose.
“It makes me feel like there is something that I can actually do now, it makes me feel energized,” he explained.
And the employees use that energy in a way that puts a smile on customers faces.
No Limits Café is dedicated to training their current employees to work in the restaurant industry, but come the fall when the café closes its doors at night, it will open a world of possibility for others with intellectual disabilities.
“Our training academy, which will be at night, will train others with intellectual disabilities who don’t work here,” explained Stephanie.
For now, to eat at the cafe you need reservations so the employees can adjust to their duties and not get overwhelmed. But soon, walk-ins will be welcomed, showing customers willing to sit down for a delicious meal just how successful these people can be.
“If someone right now has a baby with special needs, by the time they’re old enough to work or graduate school, hopefully we won’t need a restaurant like this,” said Stephanie. “We’re the only restaurant that wants to close because there shouldn’t be a need for it, and there is.”