There’s something special brewing in Darien at Darien Library! Abilis and Darien Library are excited to announce the official grand opening of The Café at Darien Library on February 9, 2022! The Café provides employment opportunities for adults with disabilities. The Café will officially be open to the public at 12:00 p.m., Wednesday, February 9. Abilis and Darien Library are especially thankful to The Darien Foundation for its generous support in providing funding for the equipment needed to serve the Darien community.
While The Café at Darien Library has been open for the past several weeks, training employees and setting up equipment, Wednesday, February 9, is the official grand opening day and will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting and visit from local dignitaries.
The Café at Darien Library is staffed by Abilis program participants who are adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and who have gone through Abilis’ competitive employment job training program. Abilis and Darien Library are proud to offer inclusive competitive employment opportunities in the community. The Café at Darien Library is located on the first level of Darien Library at 1441 Post Road, Darien, Connecticut, and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for grab-and-go food and drink items, online ordering, or in-person ordering and dining. Online ordering is available through darienlibrarycafe.org.
Delicious coffee and food items are supplied by local favorite Darien and Fairfield County food purveyors, including Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters, Michael Joseph’s Fine Foods, Palmer’s Market and Upper Crust Bagel & Café (ucbc). Daily specials and snacks will also be offered and each day’s available menu items can be viewed at darienlibrarycafe.org.
“The Café at Darien Library is our second partnership with a public library and one of many food service operations staffed by Abilis program participants,” said Amy Montimurro, CEO and president of Abilis. “Our first café partnership with Greenwich Library, which opened in December 2020, has been a great success — both for the Library and our Abilis employees working in The Café. When Darien Library approached us to implement the same business model at their library, we knew we could do a great job — and provide additional inclusive competitive employment opportunities for the population we serve. Abilis is committed to our mission of ensuring individuals with disabilities have meaningful employment and we have more than 100 employment partners throughout Fairfield County.”
While Abilis works with many employers in the community, the model for The Café at Darien Library (and Greenwich) are a bit different in that they are a true partnership where Abilis is actually running The Café on a daily basis. These ventures are important to the Abilis program participants as they provide opportunities to develop crucial job skills within a network of Abilis-managed and supported business ventures, such as Abilis Gardens & Gifts, the Abilis Café, Abilis landscaping businesses, office administration and facility maintenance, and The Café at Darien Library and Greenwich Library. This new venture with Darien Library dovetails with Abilis’ expansion in Darien with several other Abilis programs, including housing and community integration, and allows Abilis to continue its goal of creating employment opportunities, of which Abilis is so well known. The Café at Darien Library is a place where Abilis program participants can learn meaningful job skills and be gainfully employed while providing service to Library patrons — all while living close by in the community or surrounding communities.
“We are thrilled to have Abilis as a partner to run The Café at Darien Library,” noted Kiera Parrott, director of Darien Library. “We have already experienced a couple great weeks of The Café’s soft opening and are so excited about the food partners Abilis has brought in to serve delicious coffee drinks, breakfast and lunch items, and snacks for our patrons. The fact that we can provide inclusive employment opportunities for adults with disabilities and serve our library customers great food at the same time is just a wonderful combination and we are so proud of this partnership and excited to see where it takes us in the future.”
Abilis has been expanding its programs and services in Darien this past year with four separate programs: The Café at Darien Library, the Abilis LEAP Transitions Program (Life Skills, Employment, Advocacy and Partnership) at the Darien Depot Youth Center, Project SEARCH with the Darien YMCA, a six-month internship program, and Abilis’ REACH Supported Living Program, which offers 12 studio apartments in two new homes in Darien that opened last fall to provide independent living opportunities with supports from Abilis for adults with disabilities that Abilis serves.
Abilis is thankful for a $65,838 grant received from The Darien Foundation, a local nonprofit that awards grants for technology and capital initiatives which promote and strengthen the community of Darien. The Darien Foundation funded the technology and equipment needed to launch these new Abilis projects and programs in Darien, including The Café. A large portion of the grant, $42,913 specifically, is being used to fund the equipment, accessible appliances and point-of-sale technology that will facilitate operations for the Abilis staff working at The Café.
"The Darien Foundation is so pleased to support Abilis and Darien Library to help bring this wonderful Café to fruition,” noted Sarah Woodberry, executive director of The Darien Foundation. “Collaborations like this truly enrich our town — first by opening up possibilities for the Abilis adults who work at The Café — and also by allowing Library visitors to experience firsthand the good work done by Abilis in our community.”
Heather Brown, a professional food service manager with more than 30 years of experience working in restaurant and catering businesses, is overseeing The Café at Darien Library for Abilis, managing employees and this new expansion of Abilis’ competitive employment services. In-person ordering and dining at The Café at Darien Library is available or online ordering for pick-up through darienlibrarycafe.org.
Abilis recently celebrated its 70th year as a 501c3 non-profit organization that supports more than 800 individuals with special needs and their families, from birth throughout their lives. Abilis is a leader in serving the special needs community in Fairfield County, Connecticut, including in the towns of Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Stamford, Westport and Wilton, and has a long-standing reputation for individualized, high-quality support for individuals and their families. For more information, visit www.abilis.us, or facebook.com/Abilisinc, twitter.com/Abilis, or instagram.com/abilis_us.
Photo Credit: Calderwood Photography