The cart, located on the second floor of the MMI building, has a group of regular customers who are providing strong support to the new Project SEARCH internship site.
In March, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., stopped by to grab a latte and meet the Project SEARCH interns and job coaches.
"This is a marvelous initiative," Dr. Gold said. "We are pleased to have such an innovative Project SEARCH internship opportunity here at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine. MMI and its many partners are doing a great job helping to prepare these adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities for the future."
The coffee cart, which serves lattes, cappuccinos, specialty coffees and other drinks, was funded with a grant from the Munroe-Meyer Guild, which was written by the MMI Occupational Therapy Department. The cart allows adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to train for potential jobs in coffee shops.
The cart has proven so popular that MMI leaders and the Munroe-Meyer Guild have been talking about expansion, said Transition and Employment Services Program Manager Tara Harper.
Harper said other areas of campus have shown interest in getting a cart, although any future carts would not be placed where they would compete with the food and beverage options of Sodexo. Sodexo has been a strong partner to the Project SEARCH program, Harper said, employing several of its graduates and even donating some start-up materials to get the first cart up and running.
As a result of customer enthusiasm, a graduate of Project SEARCH will be employed to keep the cart open year-round, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The graduate also will serve as a mentor to future Project SEARCH interns who work at the cart.
The cart also now accepts credit cards, offering another trainable job skill as well as more convenience for customers, Harper said.
Harper also has made contacts with some professional shops to explore post-internship opportunities, although the next new intern won't start until the fall.
Chris Miller, Project SEARCH instructor for the Madonna School, praised the work of interns Ulysses Hernandez and Amy Buechler.
"They have done an amazing job helping the cart get off to a great start," Miller said. "It is going to lead directly to a job for Amy, and Ulysses is gaining an immense amount of skills he will take with him to whatever job he gains when he graduates from Project SEARCH. I look forward to seeing the growth of the cart as well as the growth of the students who intern at it in the years to come."
What an amazing program.
So glad to have Project SEARCH and the OpPOURtunity Brew Coffee Cart here at MMI! It's so easy to get a good coffee, and for a great cause. Tara has worked endlessly to get this up and running, and Ulysses and Amy are fantastic.
Love this! More opportunities, more experiences and more outreach...I'm so excited for those who are part of this awesome coffee cart! I'm glad to hear that they may be popping up in other locations. Would be fantastic to have one in every building and every UNMC campus including the College of Nursing in Norfolk, Kearney, Lincoln & Scottsbluff! Keep dreaming...and planning!