WILLARD, Mo. – In just a couple of weeks, people with disabilities will have a great opportunity to learn job skills. This will happen in Willard, where OzarksFirst was given a sneak peek of “The Hive.”
It’s going to be a nonprofit café, and half of the people working there will have disabilities. Future workers like Mark Seeley say they’re excited about this new experience.
“Excitement,” Mark said. “Fun. Singing, dancing, yes!”
Mark is getting ready for his first job at 21 years old.
“I’d like to learn how to cook things,” Mark said. “Like chili and meatloaf.”
He might not be making those things at a coffee shop. But, his father John says you have to admire his enthusiasm.
“It’s like a good opportunity for him to get experience that we haven’t seen in other businesses, or were really willing to reach out to the special needs community and give them opportunities,” John said.
Mark is going to make minimum wage, but it’s about more than money.
“The customers who come in and see these special needs children working and doing things,” John said. “They’ll be like, ‘Wow, they really can be an active participant.”
Not just people with disabilities, but others too. For starters, there’s 14-year-old Dallas Adams.
“It’s a very unique place for sure,” Dallas said. “Just the environment. It’s very friendly and welcoming compared to other places. I’ve been unofficially working since I was 12 just to get money and buy stuff because I don’t think my mom wants to buy a bunch of video games.”
Melissa Skaggs helped create “The Hive,” which took a year.
“There are several businesses like this across the U.S., not in Southwest Missouri,” Skaggs said. “So we will be the first inclusive eatery nonprofit where our business model is a 50/50 mix of typically developing employees as well as people with differing needs.”
Skaggs says it’s a business model that will benefit the community, and the Ozarks.
“If you heard Mark, you know he’s happy to have a job here,” Skaggs said. “He wants to be singing, dancing. Well, I want to come to work where there’s singing and dancing. It would benefit all of us. And it sounds like a much happier environment to include people who are differing needs and people like Mark with that attitude.”
“The Hive” will open in early February. Besides coffee, the café will have smoothies, tea, salad, soup, and sandwiches. Skaggs says her business will also offer wellness classes.