When it comes to entering the workforce, adults with special needs can sometimes be met with red tape. However, a Georgetown non-profit has a program to help change that.
Erin Kiltz is the founder of BiG Shop and Cafe, The Brookwood community in Georgetown.
The day vocational program is for adults with down syndrome, autism or other special needs.
Kiltz's daughter Gracie was the inspiration behind it all. After she graduated high school, Kiltz questioned how her youngest child would make a living.
"That there was really nothing next, I had become the desperate mom on a mission, that was willing to do anything to get something started,” she said.
The non-profit is a Houston expansion, a group founded over 30 years ago, but BiG is the only one in Central Texas of its kind.
41 adults contribute by working in BIG's retail, cafe, garden and artist shop where they create pottery.
BiG’s philosophy is based on interdependence, where members count on each other to help complete tasks.
"Checking out customers is the fun part for me, and I have never done that in my whole life,” Connor Quisenberry said.
He runs the register in the gift store, even the items sold are handmade by members.
"They are pretty, pretty popular," Artist and member Eric Clark said.
He has been making and selling pottery for BiG since they formed 5 years ago.
Each member is set up with job supervisors, all with a background in special education.
"They are working alongside friends, that they have a lot in common with and they are doing something beautiful,” Kiltz said.
She believes each staff member is developing a new sense of confidence while earning a paycheck.
Kiltz says this gives adults with special needs more options.
"I have found the most meaningful job that I have ever had,” Kiltz added.
The organization also accepts volunteers to help their members, they currently operate with more than 60.
All proceeds are invested back into the BiG program.
The café is open Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shop is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's located at 905 N Church Street, Georgetown.
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