LIVONIA, Mich. (FOX 2) - A new business in Livonia is giving people with developmental disabilities the chance to be employed like anyone else.
"I love what I do so we're good and strong people," said employee Ian Edgar.
There was an official ribbon cutting at Anastasia and Katie's Coffee Shop and Cafe, where their motto is "good and strong" and it describes more than just the coffee.
"It's not just about a cup of coffee - it's about the atmosphere and the camaraderie here," Edgar said.
"I'm having the best day of my life just being here," said employee Marissa Marzec.
Marissa Marzec and Ian are among 10 adults with special needs working at the new cafe, named for 13-year-olds Anastasia and Katie. They are two friends who have Down syndrome whose parents wanted to make sure they have the same opportunities when they grow up, as everyone else.
"It's really about understanding that everybody has value - everybody matters and everybody's hopes and dreams matter and that includes a chance at meaningful employment," said Kelly Rockwell, MI Work Matters.
The new cafe is named for 13-year-olds Anastasia and Katie. They are two friends who have Down syndrome whose parents wanted to make sure they have the same opportunities when they grow up, as everyone else.
In Michigan, adults with special needs can stay in the public school system receiving an education and job training until the age of 26, but after that there are not a lot of job opportunities, leading to an 80 percent unemployment rate for the developmentally disabled.
"With the unemployment rate being so high for people of different abilities this has been a great outlet for them and for us and it shows you all their untapped potential - what they have to offer," said Dan Duffy with MI Work Matters.
Which is why Katie Rockwell and Dan Duffy started the nonprofit MI Work Matters to employ special needs adults, just like they're doing at their new coffee shop on Merriman north of Seven Mile in Livonia.
They are hoping that this is just the first of many opportunities to open for people with special needs -- not just for this non-profit, but that others will get on board as well.
Anastasia and Katie's Coffee Shop and Cafe is on Merriman north of Seven Mile in Livonia.
It is happening in some places. FOX 2 has brought you the stories of MI Cookie Project in Melvindale, where adults with special needs are baking up the best cookies in the business. Then there's Beer City Dog Biscuits out of Grand Rapids, where adults with special needs are making treats for our four-legged friends.
But there's still so much more to be done to give good and strong opportunities to people with different abilities, who are more than willing and able to work.
"This was actually my future job that I always wanted," Marissa said.
"Hopefully other people can do this also - and give everybody else a chance," Dan said.