Local Coffee Shop Serves Up Hope - MetroFamily Magazine
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Local Coffee Shop Serves Up Hope

by Erin Page

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Not Your Average Joe coffee shop opened its first location in the Oklahoma City metro in January 2019. In addition to serving exceptional coffee and food, the nonprofit organization also creates accept-ional opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

The organization provides eight to 12 jobs for adults with special needs in each of their four locations in Midtown, Norman and Oklahoma City, but the team is also providing hope far beyond their own walls.

During the opening of the newest NYAJ location in the Homeland at May and Britton Avenues, Executive Director Tim Herbel witnessed one of the most remarkable moments yet in the organization’s short history.

“A family drove in from Alva to be at the grand opening because they wanted their daughter to know there is hope for her after graduation,” said Herbel. “Most families who have children with disabilities are brutally aware of the statistic that 80 percent will be unemployed after high school. They don’t have a place to belong or feel safe or hang out. We’re giving families hope.”

Herbel speaks regularly at schools around the metro to assure students with disabilities that there are opportunities for them in adulthood. Danielle Robinson is a prime example. She’s both an employee of and ambassador for Not Your Average Joe, serving up coffee and conversation throughout the NYAJ locations.

“I love talking with customers and getting connected to them,” said Robinson. “And I love inspiring people. Someone with disabilities can share their experiences with others and just be themselves.”

Not Your Average Joe has a coordinator of special needs who creates individual work plans for employees with special needs like Danielle, helping her learn the job and life skills she’s interested in acquiring, like getting her liquor license. Two other baristas at the Norman location are working on their specialty coffee certifications.

The lack of job skills training, transportation and other barriers are the reasons the unemployment rate is so high for adults with disabilities, said Herbel, a fact his team is trying to change in the Oklahoma City market.

“Danielle has been included her whole life at school,” said Herbel. “We don’t want [high school] graduation to be a death sentence to the social life [of individuals with disabilities]. We want it to be commonplace to include people of all abilities, and we want to inspire other employers to do this, too.”

In addition to visiting Not Your Average Joe to sample the coffee, tea, specialty drinks, breakfast and lunch foods or homemade ice cream, community members can support the organization by volunteering. Individuals can work with employees with special needs by helping provide transportation or shadowing non-verbal employees to assist with their duties. The organization is also seeking volunteers to assist with accounting and marketing. Learn more at nyaj.coffee

What to Order at Not Your Average Joe

Danielle’s favorites

Drink: S’more (with graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow)

Eat: Chorizo burrito (with black beans, bell pepper, egg, cheese and avocado), Midtown/Sooner Club sandwich (with roasted turkey, smoked bacon, pesto, provolone, tomato, spinach and avocado on whole wheat bread) and homemade Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip ice cream

Tim’s favorites

Drink: Cortado (espresso and steamed milk) or mango smoothie

Eat: Suspicious sandwich (NYAJ’s take on Elvis’s favorite with peanut butter, banana, bacon, Made in Oklahoma honey and jam served on blueberry bread)

At the Homeland location, sample a variety of Made in Oklahoma products. NYAJ teamed up with Edmond’s former Super Scoop ice cream store, offering the homemade products in their stores and for catering events both large and small.

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