GiGi's Playhouse is a nationwide network of Down syndrome achievement centers for people of all ages. Founded by Nancy Gianni, the nonprofit now includes 31 different locations and served over 26,000 individuals with Down Syndrome last year alone. Three years ago, GiGi's opened the cafe Hugs & Mugs in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, that is completely staffed by adults with Down syndrome.
Dave Luzwick, director of adult programming and job placement, told The Daily Herald that on any given day, the Hugs & Mugs staff serves between 40 to 50 cups of coffee, along with smoothies, gelato and milkshakes at certain times. The adults who work in the cafe first attend two 12-week sessions at GiGi's Playhouse. Once they complete the training program, the adults begin their 18-week internship working in the cafe.
One volunteer at Hugs & Mugs, Aubrey Soukup, told ABC Chicago that the best part about being involved in the program is the people. She said they challenge her know exactly what she is doing at her job and inspire her to be the best version of herself.
"This is where they build their resume, this is where the career skills start, this is where they learn customer service, this is where they have they contact with their customer," Nancy Gianni, founder of GiGi's Playhouse, explained to the source. "They learn how to take care of a customer, they learn the POS system, they learn every aspect of the business. So really it's just a place where they can find where they fit and what type of job they want to look for in the community."
Visit the program's website to learn more about the good work Hugs & Mugs is doing in Hoffman Estates.