There’s never a gray day when Alicia’s around.
“She’s a ray of sunshine, always happy and kind,” said Katie Welge, Managing Director of Aspire CoffeeWorks, the social enterprise that Aspire formed with Metropolis Coffee Company where Alicia’s worked for the past three years.
Alicia’s happiness derives from a number of factors. At Aspire CoffeeWorks, for example, she enjoys being part of a diverse team of people working side-by-side in a fun, supportive environment. Alicia also enjoys being a resident at an Aspire community home, providing her with a safe place to live in a family-like atmosphere. And she loves having seven roommates whose idea of “Girls Night Out” means staying in to eat popcorn and watch old movies.
Yes, life is good for Alicia, an energetic 33-year-old who isn’t letting Down syndrome define her future, thanks to her work with her Aspire team. Alicia’s been an Aspire participant since October 2007, when she moved out of her family’s house into one of Aspire’s community homes.
She’s made steady progress ever since. “Alicia’s a very quick learner,” said Kimberly Johnson, the Aspire team member working with Alicia and other residents at the home. Under Kim’s guidance, Alicia and her roommates take part in all aspects of running a home, from cooking and cleaning to grocery shopping, while learning additional skills so they can become more independent. “Right now, we’re learning about managing money and making plans to go out, which requires knowing where you live so you can get home,” she said.
Alicia is also gaining valuable on-the-job skills, thanks to her role at Aspire CoffeeWorks. “She started out working offsite at our frac pack manufacturer’s plant in Wood Dale, IL,” recalled Katie. When the plant moved up north earlier this year, it opened the door to a new opportunity for Alicia – working in production at the Metropolis Coffee Company roastery in Chicago, where she helps label, scoop, weigh, grind, and pack up coffee.
“We couldn’t be happier to have Alicia on our team,” said Katie. “She’s the best employee anyone could ask for.”
According to Katie, Alicia is a hard worker who takes initiative, moving from one step to the next all on her own. “She’s also a team player,” said Katie. “Alicia has a knack for knowing when someone needs a little help and is always happy to jump in and assist.”
She displays that same joy and initiative in her everyday life at the community home. “Alicia’s always ready to lend a hand,” said Kimberly. “If you’re having a down day, she’ll do something to make you laugh.
“I’ve learned so much about life from Alicia,” added Kimberly. “She’s got a great future ahead of her.”