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Meraki Mocha –Inclusivity, Diversity, And A Thriving Wage Goals For The Differently Abled In Lancaster County

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A little over a week ago I had the opportunity to hear about a variety of great ideas for our County and ways we can help these ideas thrive and come to fruition at a Crowdfunding event put on by ASSETS, a diverse group of entrepreneurs and business leaders who are helping our county with social change and economic development.

Pictured James Stafford, founder of Sage & Shield and The Tommy Foundation’s President, Sugey Cruz-Everts at the Assets “The Great Social Enterprise Pitch”.

Pictured Founder Mark Wieder and some of his team at Popped Culture.

We learned about everything from using a Popcorn Academy and Business to help teach entrepreneur skills to at risk teens who are paired with College mentors (Popped Culture) to a membership-based, flat-fee cleaning business started by a veteran that wants to help people earn a living wage (Sage & Shield) and many more.

Today, I wanted to highlight a specific one that is near and dear to my heart because it directly addresses one of the many issues faced by the families and individuals we serve–that of working in an diverse and inclusive environment while earning a thriving wage. I speak of course of the awesome idea for our community brought forth by Sierra Wood and her dream business Meraki Mocha.

Meraki Mocha exists to empower people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by offering meaningful employment at a thriving wage, while working in an inclusive environment. They partner with local and environmentally sustainable suppliers to provide fresh and affordable products. Their mission is to be a catalyst to inspire other businesses to hire more people with Intellectual Disability.

Sierra is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work and Masters in Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on social enterprises and global affairs. She has many years of experience in the food industry, 5 years experience working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, and has a passion to see Lancaster embrace diversity through inclusivity.

 

The dream for Meraki Mocha began five years ago. A woman Sierra knows has down syndrome and showed her a $3 paycheck compensating 70 hours of work. This equates to roughly 4 cents/hour. It was frustrating to see someone so capable and talented, who wanted to work, being taken advantage of at her job. Meraki Mocha is a means to address this problem in a very practical way.

Pictured Sierra Wood and friend alongside TTF Founder and President, Sugey Cruz-Everts at Asset’s “The Great Social Enterprise Pitch” Event.

 

The eventual goal for Sierra and Meraki Mocha is to open a cafe here in Lancaster. You can help this incredible team make this dream a reality and thus also show our County that a thriving wage for those with Intellectual Disability is not only possible but worth doing.

You can help by supporting their crowdfunding campaign and following them on Facebook.

Help us share this wonderful and worthwhile idea in our community! Best of luck to Sierra and the team already working with her.

Fulton Theatre Sensory Friendly Program – The Nutcracker

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Sensory Friendly symbol is now used for identifying a sensory friendly production.

Sensory Friendly symbol is now used for identifying a sensory friendly production.

Many families in Lancaster got a chance to enjoy a sensory friendly production of the holiday favorite “The Nutcracker” on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015. For many of them, this experience was the first time their loved one was able to attend a theater performance. Many of the children there had autism and/or other conditions where sights, sounds, and other sensory stimuli might otherwise prohibit the individual from attending a theater performance ordinarily.

The Tommy Foundation President, Sugey Cruz-Everts, recently accepted a post on the Fulton Theatre’s Advisory Committee for at least the next 2 years. With this new role she hopes to be able to highlight the needs of individuals in the community that have sensory challenges and help them enjoy more of these kinds of productions with the eventual hope that they will develop a love of theater and the performing arts. TTF is excited to offer their support to the Fulton and the Committee’s founder, Jennifer Ridgeway, in this manner and looks forward to future productions.

Families that participated in this event received a social story about attending the theater; were able to request specific seating that made their experience better; could come an hour before the performance and feel some of the props, get to meet some of the actors, do crafts and activities that were supplied by Schreiber Pediatrics Rehabilitation Center and much more.  Children also received ‘fidgets’ (small toys that they could use in case they had anxiety to shake or play with) and were able to use the sensory room that was set up at the Fulton at any time that it might be necessary if they were overwhelmed.

For more information about future productions please contact the Fulton or contact us.

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