McKINNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Owner of Hugs Café and Greenhouse, Ruth Thompson's vision has created a recipe for success for the adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who work there.
The non-profit located in downtown McKinney has provided meaningful training and competitively-paid employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 2015.
"Once they age of out of high school at the age of 21, there's very few opportunities for them. It kept resonating with me... We had to do something," said Thompson.
She created an environment that embraced what each adult with disabilities could do, not what they couldn't do. Things like hosting to managing food prep.
"This kitchen reminds me of having my own business," said Kaelyn Bradley, the Hugs Cafe Assistant Kitchen Lead.
No job is too big. No job is too small.
"It's meaningful employment that's what everyone wants," said Thompson.
Everyone is referred to as a teammate at the cafe, not an employee. And everyone is held to the same standard, requiring a great attitude and great effort.
Kaelyn jokingly said, "if they don't work hard, they're out of here."
Fact is, hardly anyone ever leaves the cafe or the second part of the company's concept. Just a few miles up the road, way behind the cornfields on County Road 205, one finds the Hugs Greenhouse, operating since 2018. That's where nature and nurture go hand in hand.
Some of the workers there spoke about how much the job and environment mean to them. Noah Tennison, said "kinda like how the plants are. They're pretty beautiful. I'm glad I get to work here with all these friends of mine." Clay Kendrick said. "it's hard for us to find a job like this. We love it." When asked how many years he's been here, Jacob Shaw, answered four years. And when asked if he loves it, he said, "you better believe it. You better believe I love it here."
"I just love being outside. I see it as a healing thing for me," said Hunter Heinrichs.
Not as healing as it is for Bill Crump, who manages the greenhouse.
"I get emotional because the guys and girls are part of my family now,"he said.
It's a family so full that the company has a waiting list for employment. That's where the Hugs training academy comes in. Recently, they held their first graduation.
The academy teaches how to land jobs with partnering companies in the future.
Assistant greenhouse manager, Reagan Reece, is happy, "this is giving a chance and we need more places like this to give everybody an equal opportunity."
An opportunity to plant the seed that everyone is capable of making a difference is this world.
Martavious Cole, who greets customers at the front door of Hugs Cafe, encourages others to "trust in yourself. God will be there for you. He will be there for you no matter what you're going through."
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