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SEE HOW: Neighbors work to create new opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities

Posted at 5:20 PM, Mar 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 17:20:32-04
  • Neighbor Bill Schack is working to open Inclusion Cafe, a restaurant to train people with intellectual disabilities on job skills.
  • Applications open to participate in the program Monday, March 18.
  • Watch the video to hear how experts with FSU are also helping connect people living with disabilities to job opportunities:


One neighbor is working to bring people with intellectual disabilities new opportunities through job skills.

Bill Schack has a personal connection to those with autism and intellectual disabilities.

"I have a son who is 25 with autism so he's kind of the inspiration to do this," Schack said.

What he's doing: opening up what he is calling Inclusion Cafe.

It's a restaurant and training facility set to employ 30 people with intellectual disabilities.

Schack said finding jobs can be a challenge for that community, including his own son.

"He had a job when he was 20 and then COVID hit and he lost his job and here he is four years later and he doesn't have a job," Schack said. "I think that's a similar story for a lot of families."

The restaurant off South Monroe Street will serve as a space to teach people valuable life skills.

Until the work is finished on the building, the Salvation Army is lending a helping hand by letting them use their kitchen.

Community Relations director Brittany Christie said it was the least they could do.

"It's what it's all about, I absolutely love it," Shack said. "I am glad Bill has taken the charge to identify this need."

Others working to help: people like Cathy Zenko with FSU's Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

She said their center is one of seven in the state that serves 18 counties.

They guide families and people living with autism toward paths of success from an early age through adulthood.

"Just like any other child, let's take a look at where you are starting to show areas of strength, we really want to maximize that," Zenko said.

The CARD center also works with local businesses to help bring job opportunities to that group.

Zenko said engaging with businesses to raise awareness is key.

"Building up the capacity in the community so that they understand autism a little bit better, so we go in and work with that employer to say okay, these are the jobs I want this person to do and here's what I already know about this person," Zenko said.

Schack said he hopes to build skills that his students will be able to take to those employers.

"Being a part of a team, following directions, that doesn't just apply to restaurants," Schack said. "It applies to every job around this community."

Applications open to participate in the inclusion cafe on Monday.

You can also go to his website to learn more about how you can help.