Cup of Joy

Bitty and Beaus

What makes us happy? In the short term, our answers may vary – a new car, a big trip, your team winning the championship, an ice cream cone on a summer day – all of which bring momentary delight. In the long term, however, what makes us happy is surprisingly universal. The ancient Greeks defined happiness as “the joy that we feel when we’re striving after our potential.” That wisdom still holds true; research tells us that people are happiest when they have a sense of purpose and meaningful work to do.

Those who work may joke about Mondays or living for the weekend, but they also have opportunities to develop professional skills, set and achieve goals, and contribute to their teams and communities. Paychecks aside, having meaningful work to do is foundational to a sense of self-worth.

For people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), finding employment is not a given. Consider an alarming statistic: over 70% of people with IDD are unemployed nationwide, which can reinforce a sense of isolation and keep them from participating fully in their communities.

Amy Wright aims to change that percentage.

Two of Amy’s children, Bitty and Beau, have Down syndrome. A fierce advocate not only for her own children but also for all individuals with IDD, Amy founded the non-profit ABLE to Work USA, and was determined to create a place founded on value, inclusion, and acceptance where people with IDD could work as part of a team. She envisioned a coffee shop which would serve as a community cornerstone. Her employees with IDD would engage patrons as a valued part of the community with an authentic sense of purpose, and patrons would have the opportunity to see the world through a different lens.

Beau’s Coffee opened in January, 2016 in Wilmington, NC, in a 500 SF space when Amy’s son Beau was 11. The business outgrew the space in six months and moved to a 5,000 SF donated facility. Beau’s 12th birthday wish was to have his little sister’s name next to his on the sign, and Bitty & Beau’s soon employed 40 people in Wilmington, including two staff members with special education degrees.

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