Tampa coffee shop employing people with autism collecting donations for food truck

Posted at 4:42 AM, Oct 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-31 07:07:39-04

From store front to food truck. A local coffee shop that employees people with autism is losing its home inside a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Tampa. 

The group behind the shop, Autism Shifts, is hoping to move into a truck and take it on the road. They shop closes down at the end of November. 

The group is trying to raise $105,000 for the truck and everything that comes with it.

Russell Wadsworth has been working on Artistas for seven years,

"I always like to heat up the stir stick so it doesn't cool down the beverage," Wadsworth said, preparing his favorite coffee beverage. "It’s more than just like a job, it’s family."

He has autism and this is the only job he has ever had. He says before the opportunity was presented, getting a job was something he feared. 

"I was very introverted, I didn’t talk very much and being able to work in this environment and with these wonderful customers it helped me to be much more expressive," Wadsworth said.

"They’re going through some changes which is expected in the business world," said Vicky Westra, the founder of Autism Shifts.

She says even though the shop is closing, the mission of helping people with autism thrive is not changing.

"We see a world where people with autism are successfully employed and can live independently and integrated," Westra said. 

It is why they are hoping to pack up the beans and machines and take it on the road to help educate the community and continue providing workforce training. It is an idea Wadsworth is completely on board with.

"It’s opening a bunch of doors for us," said Wadsworth.

Westra says Autism Shifts is not only helping prepare young people living with autism for independence but it is also helping businesses understand their unique skill set so they can be employed. It also helps people in the community understand what autism is. 

Autism Shifts is having an appreciation event November 13 to 18. If you would like to donate, click here.