You probably don’t need another reason to snag an illustrious Farm Show milkshake, but State College-based Taproot Kitchen might give you another.
Co-founders Sharon Schafer and Anne Rohan developed the shared-use community kitchen at 318 S. Atherton St., where adults with intellectual disabilities can develop culinary skills, socialize and give back to the community.
The kitchen launched in 2014, but for the past three years, Taproot has been a favorite at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair. Taproot sells $5 Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association milkshakes and nets 20% of the proceeds.
The liaison between you and one of those milkshakes is often a volunteer from either Taproot or Community and Residential Empowerment Services, an organization that also provides opportunities with developmental or behavioral health challenges.
“They dream kind of big when they’re in school, but I think life and adulthood is very difficult for this group of people,” Schafer said. “They have a difficult time finding jobs because there’s an expectation of proficiency, which there aren’t that many steps in place for them to get to that proficiency. They can be easily discouraged and run out of options.”
In 2018, only 19.1% of people with disabilities were employed, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. That’s something Taproot and businesses like Good Day Cafe are trying to change, volunteer manager Kerry Richards said.
“It doesn’t matter what your level of skill is or who you are — that’s Taproot’s theme. Everyone has a place at the table. No matter what your skill level is, they find somewhere you can fit in,” Richards said. “I love working with them. They’re just the greatest people and they make you realize how blessed you are and how much you can make a difference.”
At the end of the 145th Grange Fair on Saturday, Taproot will have raised about $10,000 from its milkshake sales, Richards said.
The about $7,500 raised the first two years was put toward various improvements to Taproot’s commercial kitchen, including a walk-in refrigerator, an oven and a commercial-grade food processor, Schafer said.
Taproot is on pace to raise about $3,000 during the 2019 Grange Fair, which is set to be put toward a commercial dishwasher and complete phase one of its project, she said.
Joey Schafer — Sharon’s 26-year-old son and one of about 50 volunteers that make the milkshake stand run — said “it feels good” serving milkshakes at the Grange Fair because “it’s fun here.”
When Grange Fair Queen Morgan Bair paid him a visit Thursday afternoon, he served her in his usual effervescent way.
“We want these individuals to have a chance to be in a position to serve rather than be served,” Sharon Schafer said. “Whether it is as a nonprofit volunteer or things in town that are very important or meaningful, ... being in a position to serve is really the key for them. And not to be the one receiving the services.”