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This week, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) opened its second Beneficial Beans Cafe location, nestled inside of Burton Barr Central Library. The cafe, which is part of SARRC’s social enterprise program, is now accessible Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and serves coffee and a variety of food items to library visitors and employees. But its most distinct feature is serving as a workplace-training program for young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“We’re grateful to Burton Barr Central Library and the City of Phoenix for this incredible collaboration,” said Daniel Openden, PhD, BCBA-D, president and CEO of SARRC. “Having a presence in the heart of Phoenix will bring awareness to SARRC’s efforts in the community and an amazing experience to our interns, who will have the chance to be embedded in an active downtown environment.”
Openden said that Beneficial Beans Café allows SARRC’s clinical team the opportunity to work with interns to develop skills in a natural business environment. In part due to its social enterprise programs, more than 70 percent of adults served by SARRC hold competitive jobs in the community, where according to national data, it’s estimated only 10 percent of adults with ASD are employed.
“People often ask ‘Why a cafe?’ Because arguably one of the biggest challenges adults with ASD face is social interaction; so rather than removing this challenge, we want to teach adults employment skills in one of the most socially challenging and demanding environments,” said Openden.
The first Beneficial Beans Café, established in 2012, is located inside Scottsdale Civic Center Library, and interns there have served more than 24,000 customers. Burton Barr Central Library receives more than one million visitors a year, making it an ideal spot for a second location.
At the new Beneficial Beans Cafe’s ribbon cutting event on March 3, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton announced his continuing support for SARRC’s social enterprise programs and, on behalf of a proclamation of Governor Doug Ducey, March 6 was declared SARRC’s Social Enterprise Day.