The Down Syndrome Association of Delaware (DSA), a nonprofit group founded and run by parents of individuals with Trisomy 21, celebrated the grand opening of DSA Cafe in December.
Located in the city of Newark, DSA Cafe offers a one-of-a-kind, three-month-long paid internship so that people with Down syndrome can develop the necessary skills to find a long-term job in the food or customer service industries. The Cafe location also houses a store selling products sourced from all over the country and as far away as England, each made by a person with Down Syndrome.
The Cafe is the first initiative of its kind for the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware, and it has received significant buy-in from the surrounding community. Executive Chef Rob Taylor chose to leave a career in corporate dining in order to head up the program. Taylor himself has a son with Down syndrome.
At the Cafe’s grand opening ceremony, Taylor commented on the practical impact working in the Cafe is going to have on the interns’ lives, saying, “It’s going to help create an awareness of safety in the kitchen as well as the culinary recipes to be able not only to take those skills home with them and prepare meals for their family, but also hopefully cultivate an understanding of what it’s going to take to work in a real kitchen in some capacity.”
According to DSA of Delaware Executive Director Laura Camp Gates, “Our gift shop and café applies job training to individuals with Down syndrome so they can pursue full-time employment opportunities with competitive, integrated employment. We’re really excited to have a large presence in the community at large and to allow the community to get to know our families and vice-versa.”
Delaware State Rep. Krista Griffith also attended the grand opening. The former DSA board member, who is herself a parent of a child with Down syndrome, celebrated the “even greater opportunities” the Cafe will provide “for our kids and our loved ones and ourselves.”
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The inaugural class is made up of seven interns, who serve breakfast and lunch Mondays through Fridays. The Cafe also offers catering. At least one of the interns couldn’t be more enthusiastic. Noah Bradshaw, who also works at both Jimmy John’s and Starbucks, told the Newark Post, “I’m very, very excited.” Bradshaw said he was most looking forward to making mango smoothies.
The DSA Cafe kitchen is called Victoria’s Kitchen, in honor of Victoria Marsh, a young woman with Down syndrome who died of cancer in 2021 at the age of 19. At the Cafe’s grand opening, Gates recalled Victoria’s love for cooking. “Her passion for cooking and life in general left a huge impact on the world,” she said. “We know Victoria’s Kitchen will change the life of many adults with Down syndrome who will intern in the space.”
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