The Roanoker - September/October 2020 - 20

the gist

Scoopfuls of Kindness

CHRIS WOODRUM is something of a celebrity.
"We can't even go to the grocery store without him seeing someone
he knows," says Beth Woodrum, Chris's mother, with an incredulous
shake of her head. "He just makes friends everywhere."
This fall, when a coffee and dessert shop plans to open in a
prominent corner of the old American Viscose Corporation off Ninth
Street, Chris's star status will rise even higher.
"That's my name," he beams, pointing to the teal logo of a coffee
cup and a heart that his mom fashioned more than three years ago
as she began her quest to found a workplace for young adults with
special abilities.
Chris, 25, has Down syndrome. And as he prepared to wrap up
a stellar senior year at Cave Spring High School in 2017 - he was
Cave Spring's Knight, a member of the soccer team and an all-around
buddy to all - Beth wondered what the future held for him and other
disabled young adults in the area.
"Once school is over, everything stops - therapy, instruction,
camps," she explains. There are a few opportunities for employment
- Chris has worked with the Salem Red Sox and at Chick-fil-A.
But not enough.
Beth researched programs around the world and landed on the idea
of opening a cafe. There could be jobs that engaged with the public
and others behind the scenes. It could be a workplace that not only
gave young adults a positive environment and steady employment
but also showcased to the community that these
ABOVE:
twenty-somethings had gifts and talents to share.
Chris and Beth
As she worked through the details, Beth knew
Woodrum have been
developing a skills- the coffee shop needed to be a successful business.
training program
But she also could see that the youth she was aiming
and a supportive
workplace for young to serve would require support. Collaborating with
adults with special a team of special education teachers, she set out to
abilities since 2017. develop a life-and-workplace skills program that the

20

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

young adults would complete before applying for their jobs.
Although Beth had no restaurant experience, no idea how to run a
nonprofit, no background as a teacher, she had worked extensively with
special needs youth and had run a small business. She used every life
experience and contact she had to create LovABLE Services, a 501(c)
(3) established to train disabled young adults, and Chris's Coffee and
Custard, a business subsidiary of the nonprofit, where graduates of
the program could work.
When she reached out to the Roanoke community, she says the
response was overwhelming. LovABLE Services has won large
community grants and substantial business donations. Friends and
fellow church members, neighbors and teachers (Woodrum calls them
her "volunteer army") have painted and fundraised and role-played
with some 15 young adults hoping to work at Chris's.
"It's been so neat to see how many people have supported us and
believed in our vision," she says.
Chris's will offer high-end coffee drinks and smoothies and scoops
of frozen custard with mix-ins and toppings. Chris's will also sell
ready-made snacks and lunch-type meals, as well as frozen custard
cookies and cakes.
On a recent tour, Chris and Beth excitedly showed off their topof-the-line equipment, a generous employee break room, a dining
area with a built-in fireplace and lots of exposed brick and sunlight.
There's a conference room with a big-screen TV that can be rented
out; coffee shop employees can deliver lunch during meetings.
After all the planning, the reconstruction, the delays (Chris's was
first set to open more than a year ago) the Woodrums are thrilled for
customers to be stepping onto the red carpets (Chris's idea) that are
rolled out at each of the shop's entrances.
"I'm so happy!" Chris exclaims, his broad smile lighting up his
whole face.
			

-CHRISTINA NIFONG

TheRoanoker.com

CHRISTINA NIFONG

A new coffee and custard shop aims to showcase the
abilities of all.


http://www.TheRoanoker.com

The Roanoker - September/October 2020

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