New Independence coffee shop employs people with disabilities - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New Independence coffee shop employs people with disabilities

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by Danielle Wagner

INDEPENDENCE (KWWL) -- A new business celebrated it's grand opening Monday in Independence.

From the outside, Em and Jerri's Coffee Company looks like your average coffee shop. It serves drinks and food, with a comfortable place to sit.

The difference is the employees. Most have special needs.

The "Em" in the name is for Emilea Hillman. She's 21 and was born with a congenital birth defect. Basically, the two hemispheres of her brain aren't connected properly.

Her parents helped purchase the shop to give her an employment opportunity.

"Why a coffee shop? Do you drink coffee? No. My sister does," said Emilea Hillman.

Emilea and others with disabilities work at the shop making coffee, serving up food and cleaning.

"Yes, I clean tables. Pry all day I clean tables," said Hillman.

Jerri Reisner is the other half of the name. She helped develop the idea with Emilea's mom. She also trains employees and manages the shop.

"Everybody here loves their job. They're ecstatic about coming to work. They give a hundred percent," said Reisner.

Reisner said her employees with disabilities typically work three to four hours a day. They make minimum wage. She said this is a great opportunity for people with disabilities to get job experience.

"These guys can do just as much if not more. They're more willing to try new things. They're no different than anybody else. I mean, they have their limitations, but so do I," said Reisner.

Right now, three people with disabilities work at Em and Jerri's. As the business grows, the number of employees will also grow.

Em and Jerri's Coffee Company is located on First Street East in Independence.

Several grants helped the business get up and running including one from the USDA and $20,000 from Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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