GREEN BAY, Wis. — At the Grounded Cafe on 300 South Adams Street in downtown Green Bay, there's something special brewing.
"Pride. Pride in working here," said Lucas Schmechel.
Schmechel first started training at the cafe two years ago.
"I'm mostly the cashier here," he explained.
Grounded Cafe Co-Leader and mentor Chris Brodhagen works alongside Schmechel and the other trainees.
"We are a full service cafe, open to the public, open to everyone. But our main focus is we are a job training center for people with disabilities," explained Brodhagen.
He teaches the trainees how to make delicious drinks and and create the many tasty items on their breakfast and lunch menu. The goal is to help trainees, living with physical and intellectual challenges, learn skills to grow their resume.
Brodhagen said, "It's really finding out where they can shine and what abilities we can help them gain, what abilities we can strengthen that they're trying to have, and then which ones do they want to learn."
"It's really those soft skills as well, just getting comfortable with customers. We just notice that confidence of our trainees, from the time they come in to the time they get placed, just blossoms and it's amazing," added Laurie Ropson, Quality and Assurance Outreach Coordinator with the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Brown County, or ADRC.
Grounded Cafe is inside the ADRC building. They work with Curative Connections and the Green Bay Area Public School District to connect them with trainees. So far, the program has helped 13 trainees land jobs in the community.
"You get the dignity of work. You feel like you're contributing. Everyone deserves that, and that's what we try to give to people," said Brodhagen.
Grounded Cafe is proud to have just hired their first employee who initially trained there as part of the program. It's Lucas, who is glad to be back serving his customers with a smile again.
"They're happy to see me, and I'm happy to see them."
His employment also gives him some independence.
He said, "It feels good to get paid for doing something you love."
Lucas said he owes it all to the caring staff and loyal customers who always believed in him.
"Oh, they're the nicest people I've ever met."
Leaders say Grounded Cafe also brings the community together to help breakdown stereotypes and support inclusiveness. It also supports growers by buying from local food sources.
The cafe is a non-profit, so any money that is made is reinvested back into the program to help it grow and serve more people.
The Grounded Cafe just added Saturday hours for the farmers market season. Click here for a list of hours, menu options and to learn more about the mission.