ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – A group of businesses dedicated to providing job opportunities to people with developmental disabilities was honored on Tuesday for creating a career path in their community that provides employment and training.
“People come here and they see, we’re all the same, we’re all humans,” said Athan Miller, one of the owners of Jack’s Bar and Grill and Steamers Coffeehouse.
In addition to the restaurant and coffee shop, Miller runs a prep kitchen and provides a catering service located at 8565 Five Parks Drive in Arvada. They make all of their food from scratch and have a jam business, as well.
All of these operations create a variety of jobs for her employees to start in one place and move on to other positions. Training includes using a knife and working in a kitchen but also how to work with others and talk to customers and supervisors.
“I like to make jam,” said Sara Stephenson, one of their employees. “My favorite jam is raspberry champagne.”
Stephenson is just one of the 70 employees with special needs that work for Miller and her partners. The job not only boosts employees’ self-esteem but also helps them make new friends and take on new responsibilities.
“No matter what your ability, your disability, no matter what, you can work and you have plenty to offer the world,” said Miller.
Miller has a background in working with people with developmental disabilities. She studied the field in college and was a social worker before starting her business 10 years ago.
The Good News Coalition of Jefferson County chose the theme of “Providing Pathways for a Changing World” for 2018 when selecting nominees. Miller and her businesses were honored for providing opportunities to a group of young people that may not otherwise be available to them.
“It’s very good for me to be out of my house,” said Brittany Hight, another employee. “I love washing dishes.”
Miller says she has watched her employees transform because of the work they do at her businesses. Some start off shy or hide when they hear loud noises but grow into their positions.
Family members have told her they cannot believe the change they see in loved ones because of these jobs. She hopes others will follow their example and give workers like Stephenson and Hight a chance.
“If every business said, ‘I’m going to hire someone with developmental disabilities,” said Miller. “Then imagine the change that would take place in the world.”