FOUNDERS WHY - Kris Sayers

For those of you who don't know, this is my Uncle Jim. James Amos Conner. Uncle Jim was born August 19, 1924 in Streator, IL.

Back in the 20's it was uncool to have a special needs child. In fact, my grandparents' neighbors passed a petition for them to move out of their neighborhood because they didn't want "that" living by them. My dad told me that Uncle Jim was not expected to live past age 18.

Jimmy was extremely talented in pencil sketch. He loved to draw fish, horses, wildlife and the outdoors in general. At some point and time, Uncle Jim was taught to read and write but as we all know, without constant practice, skills are lost. St. Mary's Hospital in Streator, IL hired Uncle Jim to work in their maintenance department where he remained until retirement.

As time went on, all of the aunts and uncles started to pass away, and it seemed as if the comment they always made about Jimmy probably outliving all of them could be true. Uncle Jim passed away on May 22, 2017, at age 92, and survived by one remaining brother, Larry. I'd say he had a good long life.

I share this story because Uncle Jim has always been my reason WHY I wanted to make a difference in the lives of special needs, developmentally/intellectually disabled individuals. Uncle Jim was my introduction, but Greeley School was where I fell in love with the TMH and EMH classroom. The classrooms below the kindergarten classroom were where you could observe joy visually and verbally. The students who had difficulties had no idea things were hard, different, or difficult for them. They came to school and were so happy. I wanted to be happy like them!

I have carried love for the underdogs all of my life. I have always wanted to make a difference, but I didn't know how it would happen. Now is my chance. Now I speak my purpose. I'm going to have this coffee cafe (with my partner, Brittany Cochran) and we are going to make a difference in our lives, the lives of the individuals who will work in our cafe, the lives in our community who will support us by being customers and supporters, and the lives who are touched each and every day by loving someone who is different, but not less.

I hope you'll join us on our journey of inclusion in the workplace. Please like our Facebook page, Beans & Bites, and follow us so you can support our pop-up venues until we raise enough money to have a brick-and-mortar business in Coal City.

Love and miss you Uncle Jim. I hope I can make you proud.

FOUNDERS WHY - Brittany Cochran

After graduating high school, I attended Joliet Junior College for Culinary Arts. I loved to bake and I wanted to one day have a bakery. It wasn’t until I started one of my jobs at JJC that I realized I wanted much more than a bakery. While in college I got a job at JJC helping teach students with special needs cooking and sanitation skills. It never felt like a job at all! I loved coming in everyday and helping others build skills that they could use daily. The excitement of creating delicious foods and sharing the joy with their peers was the most rewarding job I have ever had. But then I always felt that my job shouldn’t stop there. I wanted there to be an opportunity for these skills to be used in not only everyday life, but in a work environment after school had ended. So in the back of my mind I always said, when the time comes, I will have a bakery that is inclusive and brings joy to ALL individuals.

From the employees to the customers, everyone will feel the joy a tasty bite can bring to others. After meeting Kris, our dreams aligned and we quickly realized, this is happening! And I couldn’t be more excited! Our communities have been so supportive and I am so excited to see this all come together!