Cordova Cafe creating job opportunities for people with disabilities

WATCH: Cordova Cafe creating job opportunities for people with disabilities

CORDOVA, Tenn. — Mary Ellen, 14, was born with down syndrome and a heart defect, but she doesn’t let that stop her from lending a helping hand at her family’s café.

Her mother, Diane Grover, opened Dream Big Café in March on World Down Syndrome Day.

“The mission of the café is to have a job for my daughter when she’s 21,” Grover said.  “We were worried when she became an adult that she wouldn’t have a vocation of her own and if she did, would it be a safe environment.”

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With the help of a sidekick, Mary Ellen does everything from wiping down tables to refilling napkin holders.

“She’s not as verbal as most people, but her actions, she takes everything in and she can do a lot of things,” Grover said.

“She’s just not going to be a conversationalist at this time.”

Since the Café opened its doors, Grover has used the space to help train others with disabilities like her daughter.

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Through her Dreamers Gives Back Foundation, individuals participate in a six-week training program.

“And then eventually, the goal is that they will go out into the Memphis area with their sidekick working in a business,” Grover explained.

Kathy Marcuzzo is a sidekick at Dream Big Café.

“One on one is the key,” Marcuzzo said.

“Short shifts. The two hours so we can build a relationship with them and trust.”

Grover said she hopes the café can help remove the stigma associated with those who have disabilities.

“For a long time, individuals with disabilities have been institutionalized,” Grover said.

“And the model is a medical model of kind of keeping it away from society and we want people to come together and see what could be in a café. What better way than a café!”

Dream Big Café is located on the property of Vantage Point Golf Center in Cordova.

Grover is also the owner of Dreamers Merchants Coffee.

Each purchase allows Grover to hire individuals of all abilities in an inclusive environment.