I have a cousin I love dearly who was diagnosed with cerebral anoxia, which means her brain didn’t receive enough oxygen when she was born.
My cousin is now in her late 20s or maybe early 30s and has been able to work and live a reasonably normal life, even though she is definitely developmentally disabled.
But, if she and her family ever decide to make the pilgrimage from Long Island to this area, I know where I want my sweet cousin to work — at the Community Café that is being opened by former Saddlebrook Resort general manager Pat Ciaccio and a small group of dedicated folks who are creating a safe, welcoming place where adults who are developmentally and emotionally disabled can not only work, but also have the opportunity for advancement.
In a recent issue, we gave you the first-ever look inside the construction site that will soon be transformed into the Community Café, which will have its “Shining Stars” serving coffee, ice cream and smoothies and selling retail items inside a 3,200-sq.-ft. former carpeting store on S.R. 54. The Café also will feature a private event space that will feature art created by disabled artists through Arts4All Florida when it opens on or around June 15.
When I attended the community meeting and media preview event for the Café at the Hilton Garden Inn Tampa-Wesley Chapel on Apr. 18, I was so moved by what I heard that day that I told Pat I wanted to do more to help than just get the word out.
“You have no idea how much this is needed,” said one mom who was hugging her 20-something son, who was too old to participate in some other programs. “We’ve been turned down everywhere else we’ve turned.”
Another mom asked, “What are the requirements to work at the Café?,” to which Pat responded, “There are no requirements, other than filling out an application. We know we won’t be able to hire everyone who wants to work with us, but we will have at least 30-35 jobs available and all but our upper management will be developmentally disabled adults.”
You could feel not only the gratitude of the families who attended — most of whom said they first read about the Café and the news conference in the Neighborhood News — but also the dedication of those who have joined forces with Pat to make this 501(c)(3) nonprofit a reality.
I called Pat later that day and told him that I usually just charge nonprofit organizations a lower rate than other businesses to advertise in these pages. Instead, I offered to provide him with full-page ads at no charge in every issue for at least the rest of 2023 as my way of offsetting some of the costs he has been footing all by himself until the nonprofit is able to raise money of its own, whether through private donations or by applying for grants.
“We’ve never really been able to raise a lot of money for other worthy organizations in the past,” I told Pat on the phone. “But, I hope things will work out different this time. I just want to help.”
For more info about all the ways you can help, visit CommunityCafeFL.com