Florida church opens coffee shop run by young adults with autism

GraceWay Grounds & Café, a coffee shop launched on Oct. 15, 2019 as an outreach ministry of GraceWay Church in Leesburg, Florida.
GraceWay Grounds & Café, a coffee shop launched on Oct. 15, 2019 as an outreach ministry of GraceWay Church in Leesburg, Florida. | Roberta Kellan

A Florida congregation has launched a coffee shop operated by young adults with autism spectrum disorder in part to help with employment training.

GraceWay Church in Leesburg opened the outreach ministry GraceWay Grounds & Café on Tuesday.

Roberta Kellan, director of Operations for GraceWay Grounds Coffee & Café, told The Christian Post that the inspiration for the café came in part through having a son who is on the autism spectrum.

“I chose specifically the coffee shop because my son trained at a coffee shop while in Michigan, and it was one of his favorite places of employment. It offers an opportunity to be easily trained and interact with the public,” Kellan said.

“My son was able to receive on-the-job training via a work study program created by the public school system. They act as a liaison between the young people and participating employers. My son has flourished.”

Kellan said she experienced “frustration when seeking transitional life skills” for her son before moving to Michigan. Upon returning to Florida, she wanted to “create a small version of the program.”

“It has been my dream to bring light to the need for resources for Lake County, for young adults with ASD,” Kellan said.

At present, GraceWay Grounds has six volunteers working at the café. The café plans to introduce social events on Fridays, such as karaoke, video game tournaments, dances, and movie nights.

The café primarily relies on donations, with any profits made from the outreach ministry going back to the café or employment training.

“Our experience has been when people are giving ‘from their heart’ they are generous,” said Kellan, who noted that since opening the café, she has received a good deal of positive feedback from locals. 

“It’s in God’s hands. He’s put in on my heart, and I’m hoping and praying that the community will be here to show support and help it grow.”

Formerly known as Lake Square Presbyterian Church, GraceWay is a member congregation of Presbyterian Church (USA), under the Presbytery of Central Florida.

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