This North Carolina Coffee House is Changing Lives

Robbie Caponetto
Amy Wright has helped many people with disabilites find success and a little independence in Wilmington.

For 12 years, Amy Wright and her family have been working to make a difference in the public’s perception of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). And as the mother of four children (two with Down’s syndrome, Beau, 12, and Bitty, 7), creating opportunities to help alleviate the unemployment problem for this marginalized group is personal. “When Beau was born, my passion and purpose came into focus. It became my life’s calling to educate people and promote the inclusion and value of those with IDD,” says Wright.

Step inside the coffee shop: Watch this Video

In 2015, the Wright family launched ABLE to Work USA, a nonprofit organization and matchmaking service connecting job seekers who have IDD to employers who were ready to think outside the box. Overwhelmed with individuals wanting work and only two companies ready to hire, they decided that the next step was to lead by example. “We thought, ‘Let’s demonstrate to businesses how much value these people have.’ So we opened Beau’s Coffee,” explains Wright. Two months later, the phones at ABLE to Work USA began ringing off the hook with local companies on the line ready to hire.

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Jamie Warzel

Beau’s Coffee, recently renamed Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, has relocated to a larger spot, grown to a staff of 43, and is having a huge impact on the community. “While it might not be the fastest cup of coffee you’ll ever be served, it’s by far the best customer service,” Wright says. “No matter how rushed someone might be when they come in, time just sort of stops for people when they’re here. Our employees are enthusiastic, encouraging, and filled with gratitude. And it rubs off on our customers.” Of course, as Wright explains, coffee shop patrons aren’t the only ones benefiting. “Most of our employees have been marginalized their entire lives, but now people are respecting them in a different way. We believe Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is paving a way for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be part of the American dream, not just by creating jobs but also by promoting the value of these individuals’ lives. When someone is valued, opportunities tend to follow,” says Wright.

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