Changing the way people love other people.
The Wright family at the New Hanover County Arboretum in 2011: Lillie, Emma Grace, Ben, Bitty, Beau, and Amy.
get a job,” Ben Wright says. “We want to get the culture and soci-ety
to see these employees differently, and hire them in businesses
of all types — not just coffee shops. If you are visible, do your job,
and let people see you working, that is going to move the needle
for people with all disabilities.”
When Ben Wright left Morgan Stanley and opened Dye Creek
Capital four years ago, he hired nine individuals with IDD as hos-pitality
associates who greeted clients and served them a beverage in
the historic home the firm occupied before moving downtown.
“They helped keep up the house, cleaning, organizing, copying,
filing,” Amy Wright says. “They did kitchen prep, from clipping
herbs from the garden to share with clients, and making homemade
granola to send home with a client.”
She says these were life skills they were working on, either with
the help of a job coach or with Amy overseeing and making modi-fications
throughout the day.
“At Dye Creek, Ben didn’t have a very large flow of customers
coming and going, and we thought, ‘How can we create this expe-rience
where people are interacting with people with IDD and just
kind of multiply that?’” Amy says.
They began developing a vision of the future with their two
younger children in mind. They were still adjusting to creating as
normal a life as possible for their third-born child, Beau, who was
diagnosed with Down syndrome, when Bitty was born with the
same genetic disorder.
“We have tried to teach our children a lot of things but I think
above all else it is to love everyone,” Amy says. “It doesn’t matter
their background, their ethnicity, their abilities.”
The coffee shop, founded as a place to offer employment opportu-nities
for people with IDD, became a vehicle to show that love. Love
and understanding are forged as customers are served by and interact
with people they might not typically encounter in everyday life.
“We established Bitty & Beau’s Coffee thinking we were going
to solve an unemployment epidemic,” Amy says. “It became a
platform for how people view people with IDD, and that has
become the biggest discovery and has become our mission. It
wasn’t until the coffee shop started that we realized this is a plat-form
for doing that.”
The family has made buttons that say, “Future Bitty and Beau’s
Employee” to encourage other parents with children who have IDD
that there is hope for that child’s future.
Peggy Germano knows from experience how much the world
needs both this sense of hope and the success of the mission. Her
brother, Marty, was born with Down syndrome and only lived to
the age of 2.
“In the 1950s,” she explains, “there was nothing then available
for parents who had children who were Down syndrome and other
He died in 1956, on his sister’s 10th birthday.
“It’s a long time ago, but things have come a long way,” she says.
Now with a grandson who has Down syndrome, Germano
expresses joy and appreciation for the concept.