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Celebrating inclusive employers: Meet Chapters Coffee Carts

Chapter Coffee Carts offers people with disabilities an opportunity to build critical skills and professional experience in the workforce

Kelsey, a young girl wearing a pink t-shirt and black apron, smiles at work at Chapters Coffee Carts. The company logo is in the upper right of the photo.

Chapters Coffee Carts is specifically set up to provide supported worksites for individuals with disabilities. The organization’s baristas are provided structure and support according to their individual needs. This enables them to gain critical skills and professional experience in the workforce – necessary ingredients to secure future employment in the community.

The mission: Community inclusion

By placing coffee carts in highly traveled and visible locations in the community, Chapter Coffee Carts’s mission is to bring all people together joyfully, regardless of their abilities.

The Chapters Coffee Carts story 

Michael and Carol Nigro are the parents of Kelsey, who has autism, epilepsy, general anxiety disorder, and intellectual disability.  As Kelsey progressed through high school, her family dreamed of what her next steps would be and how they could work toward goals of gainful employment and social connection, and to bring her special gifts to the workforce.  

Husband, wife, daughter and family dog sit on couch

Kelsey’s mother, Carol, has been a special education paraprofessional for almost twenty years in the Medford public school system. Having a daughter with disabilities in the school system and working in the special education department at the same time enabled her to meet many children and their families, as well as teachers, therapists, and staff. Carol has been a strong advocate on both sides of the aisle; as a parent and as an educator, and is privileged to have had the opportunity to see things from both perspectives.

As Kelsey prepared to age out in 2020, her family saw firsthand the need for more meaningful employment opportunities for disabled individuals. Kelsey’s family started preparing a year in advance for her transition into adulthood and realized there were not enough programs available to support her individual needs. They settled for one, but Kelsey was never able to attend because the COVID pandemic brought it to a halt. Two years later, it has not been able to fully open.

Trying to figure out a different path for their daughter, Kelsey’s parents saw an opportunity within their community and took full advantage of it. Realizing that they had the means and connections to create Chapters Coffee Carts, they knew they had to make it happen. Knowing absolutely nothing about creating a nonprofit company they succeeded by researching everything online (www.501c3.org is a great resource). 

It took Kelsey’s parents, along with their team, hundreds of hours to bring their vision to life – but they did it. They encourage other families to think out of the box and help create more opportunities for individuals with disabilities to gain meaningful employment within their communities. 

Meet Kelsey

Kelsey was forced to stay at home for two years because of the COVID pandemic. She is excited to now be back out in the community and working at Chapters Coffee Carts: First Chapter.

Smiling young woman in red shirt

Kelsey likes to wrap those delicious chocolate chip cookies and clean up the cart at the end of the day. Her favorite color is pink and she plans to save her paychecks to buy souvenirs for her friends when she goes to Disney World.

Carol and Michael Nigro can be reached at [email protected] or (617) 697-2757 and would gladly offer any support you may need.

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