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Developmental Disabilities Don't Stop Baristas-in-Training

BRANSON, Mo. -- Cedar Creek Coffee employs adults with special needs and trains them to work in the service industry.
BRANSON, Mo. – An Ozarks coffee shop employs adults with developmental disabilities, and trains them for other jobs in the service industry.

Cedar Creek Coffee, a roasterie run by New Hope Development in Branson, began developing blends and training programs in 2012 as a way to promote workforce development among their clients, individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.

On a recent Wednesday, the aroma of coffee and chocolate wafted through Cedar Creek’s training center and roasting facility as Luke Mease and the other workers roasted, ground and bagged coffee, assembly-line style.

“I like the smell of it,” Luke commented. “The taste, not so much.”

Luke said he looks forward to coming to work each day to make the coffee.

Every day he rides to Cedar Creek from his home in Reeds Spring.

“I like it here the best,” he said, noting that his favorite part of the job was handing a freshly sealed bag to the next worker in the line.

Other visitors to the shop make ceramic crafts, take life skills classes or train for jobs in the service industry at Branson hotels and resorts.

“We take them out into the community when they're ready for that step,” explained Raeanne Zurn, New Hope’s director of operations. “And then provide the support that they need in order to maintain that employment.”

As more individuals receive an autism diagnosis, they require more opportunities to live and work in a stable environment.

A recent study, published in the journal “Autism,” suggests that only 1 in 5 individuals with autism live a fully independent life in their early 20s.

Developmental Connetions, an organization that serves as the Disability Services Board for Taney Co., manages more than 200 cases in the Branson area, including Stone and Ozark Counties.

Max Lytle, the director of Developmental Connections, said the area needs more opportunities for job training and independent living.

“You are your job, in fact,” Lytle explained. “The same thing is true of people with disabilities. It gives them a status. It gives them a group of people that are their peers and their friends.”

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