Based in Little Falls, New Jersey, nonprofit coffee shop Ethan & the Bean transforms the lives of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) by providing them training and employment. Its mission meets head-on the dire need for job opportunities for this ready and willing, yet frequently overlooked segment of the workforce.
The gift of the grind
We all gripe about our jobs from time to time – and sure, the daily grind can leave you a bit drained, especially when you haven’t had your first cup of the other daily grind.
But not everyone gets the same opportunity to contribute to a shared purpose, fueled by that morning cup of joe. In the United States, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed at twice the rate of those who have typical abilities.
Pam Donovan knew that her 21-year-old son Ethan – who has nonverbal autism and a seizure disorder – faced long odds of securing gainful employment. To give him a chance to build the skills and experience he needed in a supportive setting, and help others in his position, she secured funding and opened Ethan & the Bean in Little Falls, New Jersey in 2019.
“Before we opened the shop, Ethan was consistently denied opportunities to contribute to the community,” says Donovan. “Now his name is on the door.” Half of the staff at Ethan & the Bean also have IDD and like Ethan previously struggled to find opportunities to work. The shop gives them hope that they will ultimately find permanent 9-to-5s. “Many, including Ethan and our family, have come to view the shop as a beacon of hope and acceptance,” says Donovan.
“Before we opened the shop, Ethan was consistently denied opportunities to contribute to the community. Now his name is on the door.”
–Pam Donovan, shop owner and Ethan’s mom
A message of hope in troubled times
Despite the exceptional quality of its wares, Ethan & the Bean can’t subsist on slinging caffeine alone. Generous contributions from businesses and individuals sustain its programs, which include providing workforce and life-skills training, operating an online shop and advocating for people with IDD.
These contributions were particularly critical at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the shop had to shutter its doors to comply with social distancing restrictions.
To help Ethan & the Bean weather the storm, Hanson & Ryan stepped up and provided the nonprofit significant financial backing in 2020 and 2021. “We’re always looking for ways to support Ethan & the Bean,” says Carol Voorhis, a Hanson & Ryan commercial lines executive. “They are a treasured asset to the community and dear to our hearts.”
When the shop reopened after pandemic restrictions lifted, Hanson & Ryan placed a standing order for coffee and pastries each Friday that it donates to its clients, frontline workers and local law enforcement. That way it keeps supporting Ethan & the Bean financially while evangelizing the shop’s message of hope.
“We’re always looking for ways to support Ethan & the Bean. They are a treasured asset to the community and dear to our hearts.”
– Carol Voorhis, Hanson & Ryan commercial lines executive
Creating new opportunities
At Ethan & the Bean, as its motto proclaims, hope is always brewing.
Hanson & Ryan witnessed this first-hand when it referred the sister of one of its employees to the nonprofit. Working in the café over a couple of months not only helped her develop new skills, but opened new doors. Had she not spent this time at Ethan & the Bean, she may have never discovered her passion for the barista’s craft.
Ethan & the Bean would love to give everyone in need a crack at the coffee business, but there are only so many positions it can fill. One way Donovan intends to create new opportunities is by expanding the nonprofit’s operations to other towns.
Ethan & the Bean has reached an agreement to open a second shop in the new Morristown headquarters of Valley National Bank once its construction is complete.