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Local coffee shop that employs those with disabilities stays afloat amid pandemic

Middlesex

DEEP RIVER, Conn. (WTNH) — Jane Moen was destined to help others. Even back in high school, Moen was a special education classroom volunteer.

Even though Moen would go on to become a rehabilitation counselor, it wasn’t until her own daughter was diagnosed with autism that Moen really found her calling.

In 2018, Moen founded “A Little Compassion” and The Nest Coffee House.

A Little Compassion is the parent nonprofit organization. The Nest Coffee House, in Deep River, is the primary program that helps them meet their mission.

“It has a mission with three basic tenets to it,” Moen said. “One is to provide employment for young adults with autism and intellectual disabilities. The second is to provide social opportunities for those same individuals, and the third part of our mission is to try to change the community’s perception of these same young adults and see them for their value.”

RELATED: Deep River coffee shop – employing those with disabilities – celebrates grand opening

The pandemic could have knocked the mission off track. Rather than try and hide from it, Moen embraced it.

“Our motto here is ‘this is a soft, safe place to land,’ which is why it’s called The Nest, and our employees were really getting nervous and upset and worried about COVID.”

The Nest closed early, but Moen and her employees kept in touch via Zoom. She said the employees became used to be a part of the family, and “our job is to help them grow.”

Moen said with the state of the world, it was their job to stay connected with the young men and women.

“What really made the difference, honestly, we received a PPP loan that allowed us to bring our employees back right away. We weren’t ready to open, however, but, it was perfect because I started having the kids come in one or two at a time.”

What is she most proud of?

“We have 20 young adults who have been working here. We are down three right now because the three of them just got jobs somewhere else working more hours.”

Moen described herself as “a pretty kind boss.” But, when there’s a lesson to be learned, that she feels the kids are capable of, she’s going to push them.

More than anything else right now, Moen said safety is paramount, adding that her biggest priority was to keep her staff safe, which in turn keeps her customers safe.

Their biggest fundraiser, the second annual Water Lantern Celebration will be held on Oct. 3.

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