ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — A new coffee shop in Arlington Heights is opening their doors to not just new customers, but providing opportunity to dozens of people with disabilities.

The idea for Gerry’s Café has been brewing for a couple years between co-founders Amy Philpott and Natalie Griffin.

The business woman and former special education teacher banded together to find a solution to the staggering 82% unemployment rate of adults with disabilities.

“We do want to make a difference for our community and we do want to make a difference for this population, which is overlooked and underserved,” Griffin said

For many, like Hannah Kaczor, this is the first job they’ve ever had.

“It was the first paycheck I’ve ever gotten,” she said.“I made my own money for the first time. [I feel] Proud.”

“They want to be seen and they are seen here, and they are celebrated here,” Griffin said.

“It feels like a giant family here,” Kathleen Mcilwee said. “We have people with special needs. I actually have a special need. Lot of people look at me and assume I’m not disabled but I have an intellectual disability”

From the sandwich and salad station, to the baristas in front, there’s plenty of work and smiles to go around.

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The café is named after Philpott’s aunt Geraldine, who had Cerebal Palsy. Her photo is a reminder to every customer that we all have something special to serve up.

“Everyone who comes in just bursts into smile and feels that energy and enthusiasm that our employees are giving off,” Griffin said.