State College isn’t short on coffee shop options, but a new cafe has opened that is unlike any other around.
Good Day Cafe, which opens Saturday at 286 W. Hamilton Ave., employs more than a dozen people with disabilities. It’s a branch of Strawberry Fields Inc., an organization that provides services and support for people with disabilities and their families.
It’s modeled after Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, located in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“Everybody has gifts,” Strawberry Fields CEO Cindy Pasquinelli said. “Everybody can make a contribution. And those employees in there are absolutely having the time of their lives. It matters. Employment makes you feel like you matter. We all want to have a reason to get up in the morning. So do they.”
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In 2017, only 18.7 percent of people with disabilities were employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There’s unemployment, but there’s also underemployment, said Fran McDermid, who oversees Good Day Cafe and serves as compliance officer for Strawberry Fields. The Good Day Cafe employees who previously had jobs were underemployed.
“It wasn’t up to their capabilities,” she said. “… Now, they’re interacting. They’re cooking. They’re cleaning. They’re serving coffee. They’re making coffee. They’re making pastries. And that’s just been so amazing.”
Good Day Cafe has also brought recognition to Strawberry Fields’ mission, McDermid said.
And it’s serving “to bring awareness to people with disabilities and allow people to interact with people with disabilities and see how cool and awesome they are to be around,” she said.
Bethany Masteller, 24, said it “feels so good” that Good Day Cafe is opening, because it’s her first paid job. She’s very social, so her favorite part is being at the register.
Working at the cafe — the staff had been training for three weeks prior to the opening — has helped her get more independence, Masteller said.
Good Day Cafe received an “outpouring” of support from the community, both at its ribbon-cutting Friday and throughout the process of bringing the project to life. Centre Foundation awarded the project a $100,000 Centre Inspires grant.
Strawberry Fields anticipated that getting the coffee shop up and running would cost about $240,000, and the community support came “very close to that,” McDermid said.
Donations came in the forms of money, time and services. On a wall in the coffee shop, there’s a painted “donor tree” with leaves for each donor who gave more than $1,000.
The business is opening with no debt because of the “unbelievable” community, Pasquinelli said.
In addition to coffee and tea drinks, the cafe offers breakfast items and snacks. The lunch menu lists several kinds of paninis, including chicken and tomato pesto, cheese and pickled onion and white bean. Seasonal soups and side grain salads are also available.
Good Day Cafe is open 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.