An Arizona mom is fulfilling a need in her community with “an inclusive coffee shop and bistro” that will employ adults with cognitive and developmental delays.
Karin York was 20 years old when she gave birth to Spencer. Even though by looking back she can see how God prepared her to parent a child with Down syndrome, she was not prepared for how much she would have to fight for his continued growth.
When he was in school, York felt like Spencer wasn’t being challenged enough. She told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal, that she told the school, “He can do more. He’s mastered the calendar. He’s mastered colors. Let’s teach him something new.”
It was that passion for a challenging education for her son that led her to change her major and became a special education teacher.
During her time as a special education teacher, she realized that her students were capable of so much more than most people thought. Her school at the time gave her the freedom to build a highly sought after program where students studied literature and learned new skills.
Even though she was able to challenge her students in the classroom, she realized that many of them lost support after graduating from high school.
Her son Spencer was able to join a transition program that lets him be a part of daily devotions, worship and work in the afternoon.
Those kinds of resources, however, aren’t available to adults who may be high-functioning but have some kind of cognitive delay that can make working in a job difficult without extra support. York calls them “gray area kids.”
These are people who may not have any physical indicators of a delay, like Down syndrome, but are still challenged in similar ways.
“They want purpose. They want to be a part of something. A lot of them are unfulfilled and lonely,” York told Liftable.
After noticing this need and praying about it extensively, York felt like the best way to help them would be through a new kind of business — one that not only provides a service to the public but also helps equip “gray area” adults with necessary skills to gain and maintain a job.
“They’re capable of work … you really have to be willing to take a chance,” she said.
It’s a chance she hopes to take with a coffee shop in Surprise, Arizona, called Spencer’s Place — after her son.
She is currently in the beginning stages of opening Spencer’s Place, but she said it’s a stage that is stretching her faith in ways she could’ve never imagined.
York said that she has been dreaming of some kind of business specifically catered toward hiring “gray area kids” since 2006, but after a trip to Wilmington, North Carolina, to visit Bitty & Beau’s, she knew that a coffee shop was a perfect place to start.
Even though she loves her current job as an academic intervention specialist, she knows that she will need to step away from it in order to invest the time needed to open the shop.
Not only is she stepping away from her career, but she is also stepping away from her involvement in Young Life and multiple coaching positions.
“I’m having to walk away and really step out in faith and walk on water. I hope I walk a little longer than Peter did,” she joked. “But sometimes it feels like I’m already sinking and then I take a deep breath and rise above it, but It’s really terrifying.”
Even though some people around her have criticized her for leaving her job only six years before retirement, York strongly feels like God is leading her to open Spencer’s Place now.
“I think the time is now and the need is too great so here we go!” she told Liftable.
The city and local community have been extremely receptive to the proposed business model, but the financial support has proven to be more difficult.
“I have no doubt that once we get through all of the funding and all of the building renovations, I have no doubt that it will do well, but this piece in between is stretching my faith like nothing else has,” she said.
That is York’s biggest hurdle to jump over now. They already have the keys to a building in Surprise’s Marley Park area, but they are waiting for more funding and permits to come through before they can move forward.
Liftable will be following Karin York’s journey as she strives to open Spencer’s Place in Surprise, Arizona, so continue to check back here for updates. If you would like to support the coffee shop, consider visiting the GoFundMe account or following their Facebook page.
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