Fresh Abilities celebrates 1 year since opening during the pandemic


June 26 — Fresh Abilities, one of the restaurants located inside COHatch Springfield, celebrates its first anniversary.

The Saturday restaurant is having a special to celebrate its success with customers. A free Schuler’s cupcake will come with the purchase of a salad or acai bowl order during regular hours.

The restaurant serves fresh salads, wraps, soups and smoothies, and provides work opportunities for people with disabilities by providing skills and experience for future job success.

Opening up amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, said Bridget Doane, director of development and donor relations at the restaurant’s parent company, The Abilities Connection.

“It was definitely different from what we initially expected when we were doing all of our planning, throughout the building process. Obviously we had to tweak our plans a bit,” she said.

The restaurant was originally scheduled to open in March 2020, but due to the lockdown it had to be suspended.

“We have delayed our opening; our grand opening was supposed to be in March, and then when the governor’s orders to close came, we delayed everything and had to meet frequently to say, “Okay, what’s the best strategy going forward? Do we open, don’t we open? “We had people training for this for a while and they were eager to get down to business,” Doane said.

Other questions were raised as everything was closed at the time, she said.

“Like, ‘What’s the feasibility of opening a restaurant when restaurants are limited to take-out?’ and just limited to masks and things like that. So we decided to open in June of last year, and we’re really glad we did, because despite some of the restrictions we faced, it ‘was a great exposure to the community, and we achieved a lot of our initial goals, ”Doane said.

Aside from the fact that the restaurant is now a favorite lunch spot in the community, the goal remains the same: to provide vocational training and opportunities for people who live with special needs or disabilities.

“The restaurant is associated with TAC (The Abilities Connection), which is our parent company, and our mission is to empower people with disabilities and other barriers to reach their full potential. So we have long been a training organization. and support for people with disabilities and have provided employment opportunities and vocational training. This is our experience, this type of service, “said Doane.

Many Fresh Abilities employees were subsequently taken on to successful careers, through the acquisition of experience and skills while working in restaurants.

“We quickly saw that a lot of our people are hired after going through the pipeline, and we’re really excited to see what the year has in store for us as we have more people along the way,” Doane said.

For the latest information on what’s going on at Fresh Abilities, please visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

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