By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
Every individual’s path to independence is uniquely different. But, with the help of resources like the Two Foundation, we can all realize our full potential and dreams.
The Two Foundation was founded by Shari Hunter as a way to bridge the gap between high school or a sheltered workshop and community employment for individuals with exceptionalities.
“I started the foundation in 2013. I was inspired by my amazing son Derek and wanted to do all I could to change the opportunities in the workplace and beyond,” Shari Hunter said. “My goal is to accomplish integration at every level in every way for those who have been marginalized for way too long.”
“Our goal is strictly community employment. Our individuals are given jobs in their area of strengths and interests because this is how we know they will succeed. Our business partners are receiving great people and great employees. It is a win, win for all. This is true integration in the local workforce, which is our mission,” she noted.
“I started the Two Café and Boutique in 2015 in order to make our mission of full integration into the local workforce happen. My son taught me so much and I wanted to share it with others. We must attach meaning to all we learn and the best way to get ready for the real workplace is to work in the real workplace. We have an amazing team of educators and an amazing team of restaurant staff that make all of this happen,” Hunter added. “We are truly farm-to-fork and everyone can see our gardens as they enter the café. We buy all pure clean meats and local eggs. Everything served is made from scratch. We serve breakfast and lunch all day. When you shop in our wonderful boutique or eat in our delicious café, you are truly helping so many. Without our community participating, this wouldn’t work. Our community actively participates in all that we do because they are the customers that become volunteers without even knowing it.”
“Individuals train with us at the café for typically 15 to 20 sessions and then we move into job development. We set up interviews and then once they get the job, we help with transition and provide follow up support to our graduates, their family and the business partner who has hired them,” she explained.
“We have over 60 business partners who hire from us. These are companies that have a heart to work with us and assist their existing employees on becoming the natural supports for those they hire from us. When we integrate, we all win. When we segregate, we all lose,” she said. “Our graduates have amazing strengths and we get to share that with those that hire from us and little by little, stigmas are lost and the workplace becomes a place where we all belong together.”
“We help individuals of any age who may have been in a sheltered workshop or just sitting home because they have had no way to enter community employment. All individuals of all abilities are welcome. We meet to see if they are wanting community employment and what their individual goals are. If we can help, we will,” Hunter noted.
“The program is also available through schools. Aurora Public Schools send their seniors to us and our goal is to have a job for them by the time they graduate. Other schools, such as Chagrin Falls, use our two-week Job Readiness Camp in the summer to help with their summer programming,” she explained.
“The Two Foundation is a community resource to so many whose goal is not only to prepare for the job search process after high school, but it also prepares them with everyday skill sets that help with daily self-regulation, communication skills and empowers them to reach their goals. Our Job Readiness Camp consists of doing just that. We prepare individuals for their futures in a real work environment,” Bekah Hunter, Two Foundation business director added.
“When an individual comes to us to seek guidance for their future, we go through the process of ensuring that we can be that resource for them. Once accepted into our program, that individual joins our program with the goal of an integrated community job at the end,” she said. “Our team of educators walks the job seeker through our curriculum and connects it to real life work experience in the café and boutique. We emphasize the importance of self-regulation, self-awareness, communication and body language. The individual and their job coach work with customers, help our kitchen team and learn about marketing and merchandising in the boutique. As the individuals’ time with us comes to an end, we will have learned their skill sets and passion, and will make a business match. We go through the application and interview process and walk with them through the first-day jitters. We ensure that our business partner has all of the resources that they need to guarantee success for both the individual and the business. Our team checks in on our graduates and business partners regularly.”
For more information about the Two Foundation, visit www.twofoundation.com. The Two Café and Boutique, at 8578 Washington St. in Chagrin Falls, is open on Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Private shopping appointments are available. Phone 440.384.3236.
Two Foundation, with Two Café & Boutique, helps individuals realize their dreams
By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN