goodness mug served at Charlie Foster’s | Community events

When you walk through Charlie Foster’s doors, you’ll pick me up, but it won’t be at the cafe.

Growing up around the nonprofit Merrimack Hall, Austin Jenkins knew he had always wanted to help people with disabilities.

“We had no idea what was going to work, what it was going to look like,” Jenkins said.

But, in 2021, the vision became clear. He opened a cafe, employing workers with special needs.

“It’s just great for me to work with such amazing people and bosses here,” said Trevor Alsup, an employee.

Alsup can whip up a nice cold brew, but he picked up more stuff than a barista.

“I learned like everything here,” Alsup said.

This includes life skills the 19-year-old hopes to use soon.

“Like, go get an apartment, I really want to do that someday,” Alsup said. “It helps me become more independent, to go around people and to socialize.”

This is the environment Jenkins was looking for.

“Very quickly I saw that we were changing people’s lives,” he said.

By doing small things, like putting up posters around the store with information about their employees, Jenkins found that he was helping customers create a conversation with the staff.

“They are very friendly and outgoing, and that’s what we love our customers to be,” Alsup said.

Jenkins hopes Charlie Foster’s inspires other companies to think a little differently about hiring.

“I mean, if you don’t believe us, you can come over here and watch,” Jenkins said. “I promise we have more fun than most workplaces so it’s a hit here. That’s all I know. My experience shows it works.”

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