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Maggie's and More: Hiram coffee and donut shop specializes in inclusivity

The shop gives folks with developmental challenges meaningful employment opportunities.

HIRAM, Ohio — Dee Kletke, 46, is very proud of her room in the home she shares with her family in Garrettsville.

"I have everything. I got my iPad," Dee told us while giving us a tour last month.

She loves having her own space to help her get ready for the day. And, her everyday routine? She has that down pat.

Dee's smile lights up every room, even when others in the past couldn't see it.

"When I had her 45 years ago, people weren't ... Down Syndrome wasn't like a thing everybody knew about," said Dee's mom, Donna Kletke. "I actually took her to SeaWorld and she wanted to say hi. She was so cute when she was little. "She reached out to another child and the mom pulled the kid away."

These days, Dee is welcomed with open arms.

"Everything's all ready," she said as she put her shoes on.

She's almost ready, but she never leaves the house without a kiss from her mom, who Dee affectionately calls, "Honey."

"I love you," Donna said to Dee. "Have fun." 

"Love you, too," Dee said back. "Okay. Bye. Bye honey!"  

"Have a good day. Tell me all about it later. All right?" Donna said.

Dee's sister Dana walks her to the car. They're on the way to Dee's happy place.

"What do you think you're going to do today?" Dana asks Dee.

"I'm probably going to do a lot today," answers Dee.

After some singing in the car on the way to work, Dee's arrived. 

She's made it to her home away from home: Maggie's and More, a coffee and donut shop that allows people with developmental disabilities the chance to thrive in a working environment.

As soon as we walked through the door with Dee, she was greeted by her friends and fellow co-workers: Kayla, Katherine, Jen, and Lisa.

"We've got brownies and muffins!" she excitedly tells us.

Owner Abra Schweickert's motivation for opening Maggie's and More back in 2019, is personal.

"So I have, ever since a very young kid, had an attachment to the special needs individuals. I think they bring joy. But I think as I went through my career as a teacher, I was starting to see them not accepted in society and their potential wasn't ever thought of. You know, they kind of fell, you know, hit a track of, 'I have Down syndrome and this is what I'm expected to do.' So I had a plight as a teacher to make it known within my school, building their capabilities," Schweickert said.  "Then I really wanted to give them a future outside of my school setting. So it's kind of been a drive of mine for a long time, but it's also a little bit personal because I enjoy their world. So I like being part of their world and having them part of our world."

In their world, they work very hard to build skills and friendships.

"They always work two shifts a week at least, and once is a skill so they can sort of be the leader on the shift. But then, once it's a social social shift, so that they're working with individuals that might be similar in age, similar in interest. So, those friendships begin to develop," Abra said.

Abra has a special connection with every single worker. Each, with their own unique personality and talent.

Kayla came to us right away with all the tips and tricks on the shop's sweets.

"We also serve candy to our customers," she said. "You can make an ice cream sandwich out of a donut."

Katherine showed us around the donut case.

"We have glazed donuts," she pointed out.

As a donut connoisseur, we asked what the perfect bite would be.

"Maple!" she said.

Then, there's Jen. She's a laser-focused worker with superior panini-making skills.

"I need mayonnaise for mine!" she exclaimed, while crafting a sandwich.

Lisa DeRue is their gentle leader and biggest cheerleader. She's also a right-hand woman to Abra. We watched for hours as she danced and sang with the ladies, while encouraging and reassuring them during their work.

"You want me to do it because it's messy?" Lisa asked Jen. "I know, it's alright. I got you."

On busy days, Dee and her colleagues work very hard. They're attentive to hungry customers who stopped by to feed their bellies, and their souls.

"They remind me every day how capable they are. And they also remind me how happy and simple life should be. You don't need to have all of the glory in the world to have happiness," Abra said.

However, you can find happiness on their faces, in the coffee shop Dee Kletke and her friends fill with love.

Editor's Note: The following video is from a previous, unrelated report.


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