Beneficial Beans provides internship opportunities for adults with autism
Located inside the Scottsdale Civic Center Library is a small cafe with a big mission.
Nationally, more than 90-percent of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed. However, this coffee shop—aptly titled Beneficial Beans Cafe—is looking to turn that statistic around locally, by providing internship opportunities to adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“If you visit our café, you will be welcomed with a smile by one of our interns who is happy to take your order,” says Sarah Sanchez, social enterprise coordinator for Beneficial Beans.
“Our interns can help you decide on any drink from our full espresso menu, a variety of loose leaf teas, fresh baked pastries, or any one of our salads and sandwiches. And don’t forget to ask about the ‘drink of the month.’ Our Caramel White Mocha is a staff favorite.”
Kate Thoene, social enterprise director, explains that Beneficial Beans, opened in July 2012, is the social enterprise coffee and produce business of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC).
What is a social enterprise business? “We use the methods and disciplines of business along with the power of the marketplace to generate revenue and create internship opportunities for adults with autism,” explains Thoene.
The social enterprise creates these internship opportunities in two areas: the cafe and a garden.
“The café provides training opportunities to adults with autism to gain general employment skills and work history,” says Sanchez. “We develop a unique 12-week individualized plan for each intern that will prepare them for community-based employment. Interns work alongside Beneficial Beans Cafe staff and assist in all aspects of daily operations, including drink preparation, customer service, cleaning and cashiering. They also learn core competencies such as time management, task management, professionalism and teamwork.”
Sanchez notes that acquiring these skills are about so much more than just resume builders too.
“Studies show that only 10-percent of adults with autism are employed. Beneficial Beans is changing that statistic on a local level,” she explains. “Seventy percent of adults who have received employment services through us are gainfully employed. For these individuals, work is more than a pay check: it is dignity, freedom, friendships and the path to live more independently.”
“They [the internships] taught me that I can do anything, especially with the coffee, that I put my mind to,” says Kristopher Wipprecht, an intern who completed both the cafe and garden internship programs.
For those who can’t make it into the cafe, Beneficial Beans coffee is available to purchase online, with the proceeds going back to the internship program (just like buying products in the cafe). This holiday season, both the website and cafe will have ongoing seasonal specials.
“If Beneficial Beans Cafe is known for something, I’d want it to be the quality of our coffee and our exceptional service,” says Sanchez. “You are also supporting three of our vendors, Stuttering King Bakery, Essential Nourishment and SMILE Biscotti. Each of these businesses are owned and operated by adults with autism, and they provide our café with delicious biscotti, muffins, scones and organic energy bars.”
Cafe Manager Aaron Zuroff notes that it’s not only the interns who benefit from working at Beneficial Beans either. “Working for Beneficial Beans Café gives me the opportunity to take my love of coffee and people and use it to facilitate the achievement of employment through guidance, patience and compassion so adults with autism may find their place in the world,” he says.
Beneficial Beans Café is located inside Scottsdale Civic Center Library at 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd. To learn more, visit AutismCenter.org.