ADEL, Iowa — From the outside, Brick Street Books and Cafe looks inviting.
“Well, welcome to Brick Street Books and Cafe,” says Peg Deloriea with a big smile on her face.
Take just one step inside and the small town charm will overwhelm you. The sweet aroma of coffee invades the air, books fill much of the space and people from around town occupy the rest, each with their own stories to tell.
“See how things are going. They share with me their joys. They share with me their goals that they are working on. Just getting to be part of that and to help those things happen is probably the best part of my day,” says Deloriea.
With warm faces and fresh Joe, it’s easy to see why Brick Street Books & Cafe is an Adel favorite but it’s the employees that make this spot truly remarkable.
“I think what makes them special is that they have a heart for this. They want to serve others. They really bring the best, they are, into work each day,” says Deloriea.
Big praise coming from the boss.
“This is Joe. This is Chad. This is Shawn,” said Deloriea as she gives tour through the kitchen to introduce her crew.
With more than 20 employees and busy lunch crowd things can get hectic. Take it from Courtney. She does a little bit of everything.
“Cook and sometimes do dishes and like bus tables,” says Courtney Bergtoli, employee.
She’s been at Brick Street for only 4 months and is already a customer favorite
“I have really good communication skills with the customers. You want to make your customers happy regardless,” said Bergtoli.
Courtney is part of a program called Raccoon Forks Micro-Businesses. The program has 10 operations across the state that specifically hire people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, like Courtney, no matter their level of ability.
“We see what they are interested in, then also their skill level. What they would need support in, that’s the main things. Then we create the goals around that,” said Meggan Cronin, administrator with Optimae.
This is the type of employment our state desperately needs.
“I usually have a waiting list or people wanting to work,” said Deloriea.
Right now, the state estimates that 8 out of 10 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are unemployed.
“It’s unacceptable and they is why we are continuing to make sure we’re hitting the issue hard,” said Maria Walker, Polk Co. Health Services.
To put that into perspective. Right, now the unemployment rate in Iowa is under 4 percent. So, people like Courtney are 20 times more likely to unemployed that the average Iowan.
“Poverty! A majority of our folks live in poverty and just making ends meet on a day-to-day basis is a primary concern of ours. The only way to lift yourself out of poverty is by working,” said Walker.
There are a ton of reasons they can’t find work, like lack of transportation, bad public perception but obstacle in job placement is finding the right structure to support their training. A place where it’s OK to make mistakes.
“They do a pretty decent job, I would say,” say Bergtoli.
Creating an atmosphere, where they can feel comfortable enough to learn and process what it takes to work daily, is what makes this situation so perfect.
“There are days when I have like stress at work but other than that, my day goes pretty smoothly,” says Bergtoli.
“Our focus is giving them ownership and being part of this team and it’s their responsibility to run this place. We are going to help them with that,” said Peg.
With the help of her team and a designated job coach, Courtney’s growth has been tremendous. She enjoys making money and learning job skills, but knows the most valuable thing she’s learned is confidence in herself.
“Either at home or traveling around the world, you have to have good communication skills. Socializing with people because it brings more community,” says Bergtoli.
Brick Street opened in 2011 and has since become a community staple. In fact the demand was so high, they decided to do it again, right around the corner.
Brick Street Bakery opened 6 months ago. It’s a separate business but maintains similar practices as the coffee shop. Employees say they’re enjoying similar results.
“Before I got this job, I was working at another job and ‘Oh, you gotta get this done, right now, right now. If you don’t you’re fired.’ So this place is good for the handicap people, it’s no stress or nothing,’ said Brian Weir, employee at Brick Street Bakery.
So there you have it, an Iowa city serving up space for all of its community members. Next time you’re in Dallas County, don’t forget to stop for a sip or a story and tell ‘em Courtney sent you.
“They’ll be happy and you’ll be happy. Everyone will be happy,” said Bergtoli.