16 DECEMBER 2018 NJMONTHLY.COM
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Clockwise from top
Coffee for a Cause
left: Breaking Grounds
employee Kristin vends a
coffee for a customer; Brandi
Fishman, founder of the
Breaking Grounds brews workplace skills for developmentally disabled adults.
it’s a rainy thursday morning at
Breaking Grounds, a coffee shop in
Mount Holly’s historic Mill Race Village,
but the mood inside is bright and lively.
Behind the counter, Kristin rings
up a regular customer, a veterinarian
whose office is down the street. Lauren
grinds coffee beans, sourced from
Harvest Coffee Roastery in Medford.
They’re just two of more than a dozen
developmentally disabled adults who
work at the shop, which employs people
with autism, Down syndrome and other
The opening of the nonprofit last
December was driven by Medford
resident Brandi Fishman, who has a
10-year-old daughter with autism. In
2015, recognizing the lack of employment opportunities for special-needs
adults, Fishman founded the Zefer
Foundation, a nonprofit that addresses
issues of employment, recreation and
housing for individuals with developmental disabilities. Breaking Grounds is
the foundation’s first enterprise.
“Adults with disabilities are our
The café now offers espresso-based
country’s greatest untapped resources,”
says Fishman. “Here, they’re rock stars.”
At first, Breaking Grounds served just
drip coffee and pastries. The menu has
grown, along with the employees’ skills.
drinks, panini and breakfast sand-
wiches. It also sells paintings and other
works by local disabled artists.
In addition to taking home a pay-
check, employees develop social skills
and self-confidence through interac-
tions with colleagues and customers.
“Everybody needs to have a job and a
place in the community,” says Fishman.
“This is a place for everybody to be sup-
ported and accepted.”
“We really do feel like a family,” says
Stephanie, who started as a barista and
was recently promoted to shift manager.
Fishman is hoping to replicate the
coffee shop’s concept with other businesses, including a doggy day-care center, art gallery and car wash. “We can’t
roll out businesses fast enough,” she
says. “What we’re doing is so genuine,
so pure, and so needed.”—Shelby Vittek