We are one week away from our big event at the Roasterie and we are going to be spotlighting our sponsors this week. But first, we wanted to let you know what we are doing and why.
Hope McPheeters and Vonda Powell met many years ago and forged a friendship through a common purpose: to always advocate for their children, all on the autism spectrum.
Hope, Director of Ella’s Hope and mom of Luke,12, and Ella,17, has been the voice and advocate for her children for close to 17 years. She started Ella’s Hope with her husband, Sam, in 2010, when their daughter Ella was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. Autism was new to them and they learned that early intervention was key to helping Ella. At the time, resources were scarce and we started Ella’s Hope to raise funds and support for families and individuals that needed this early intervention.
Hope and Sam’s journey continued with Luke, born 4 years later and diagnosed with autism at age 16 months. Fast forward 11 years, and the children are now teenagers. And it’s a whole new ballgame.
Vonda began her adult career by teaching. While she didn’t major in special education, it was nearly all she taught. 5 years into teaching, she had her sons and because of her education background, was able to spot autism in both of her sons very quickly.
Since 2002, Vonda has been a “positive squeaky wheel” for change. She is an active advocate for all people with disabilities, seizing opportunities for growth and change in the community.
Both Hope and Vonda see Bro’s Joes Café as an employment opportunity for all teens and adults with any disability, a meaningful way to bring the community together.
Vonda and Hope continue to advocate for early intervention, but have found now, the gap on resources are therapies, classes, social opportunities and employment for teenagers. While most 15 and 16 year old’s are seeking their first job, playing/participating in after school sports/clubs, attending social activities, or just hanging out with friends, our kids and other autistic individuals are struggling to find a place in this world to fit in.
According to the CDC, research suggests fewer young people with ASD have the same opportunities as their peers without ASD.
High rates of unemployment or under-employment (less than 18% of individuals with developmental disabilities are employed after the age of 18.)
- Low participation in education beyond high school
- Majority continue to live with family members or relatives
- Limited opportunity for community or social activities—nearly 40% spend little or no time with friends
In addition, individuals with ASD may experience changes in their ASD symptoms, behaviors, and co-occurring health conditions during adolescence and young adulthood. These changes can affect their ability to function and participate in the community.
Ella’s Hope for Autism’s mission is to provide a safe and enjoyable work environment for individuals with intellectual and developmental delays along with other special needs. This will be Bro’s Joe’s Coffee Bar in the Northland of KC. We will create a place of acceptance for all people in the community; a place to receive, and give back. Bro’s Joes will provide an opportunity for people with, and without special needs, to work together. This café will provide a place where everyone can come together to feel purpose, importance, and to realize that we aren’t all that different on the inside.
We will open an inclusive establishment to actively socialize and interact with others in the age group 14+ that are on the spectrum. We will incorporate social skills and work skills in a community atmosphere. This is the long term goal to open a coffee shop/center that will offer social and work skill opportunities to individuals. Our goal is to open a safe place where individuals can participate in fun afternoon/evening activities, work with volunteers/job coaches to learn important job skills and also highlight talents (art, music, writing, gaming.) Our model exists in areas around the United States and we would like to bring this model to the Northland of Kansas City.
Proceeds from our fundraisers this summer will go directly to our mission and Bros Joes Program. Please join us on our journey!