Photo c/o Hugs Cafe
Hugs Café is a place where developmentally disabled adults can feel independent and enjoy a renewed sense of purpose in life, if only for a few hours a week. This Texas nonprofit primarily hires employees with Down syndrome and other developmental and intellectual disorders. Most of the employees, according to Hugs Café’s founders, will never be able to fully function as adults: their conditions make independent living and full-time jobs impossible. However, for at least 10-15 hours per week, employees can feel a renewed sense of purpose in life that’s accompanied by a paycheck of their own.
“Many of them, their parents work so they’re at home doing nothing,” Ruth Thompson, Hugs’ founder told Dallas News. “They need a sense of self-worth just like you and I do. They need that sense of dignity, and they’re not gonna get it sitting at home.”
The employees are referred to as teammates, and are currently “beating the system” because according to U.S. Census data, only 20 percent of adults with disabilities are employed.
Mike Sessom, 52, suffered severe brain damage after a car accident 25 years ago. He now works nine hours a week at Hugs Café as a cashier.
“I’m limited in what I can do, I know that,” he said. “But I’m doing the very best I can.”
Kalyn Bradley, a 23-year-old woman with Down syndrome, is the café’s primary baker.
“They’re going to show that, hey, these kids, these adults do want to work, they do want to live, they do want to serve,” she said.