When Laren Kilgore heads to work each morning, he only has to walk next door to MOXI Junction.
“It stands for Mothers Of Xceptional Individuals,” said Laren’s mother, Joanna Kilgore, as she pointed to her shirt with the MOXI logo.
Joanna is also exceptional because she created her coffee house to employ people with special needs, like her son, who has autism and needed a job after high school.
“School ended, and his life ended,” said Kilgore. “No friends, no girlfriend, no people around, nowhere to go.”
But now, Laren is the self-appointed doorman at MOXI Junction, greeting customers when they arrive.
“He talks to everyone. He talks more and smiles more than ever in his entire life,” said his mother.
“It’s just a good atmosphere,” said Brianna Reimschisel, another special needs employee.
“Yea, it’s bright and colorful,” chimed in her twin sister, Abby.
They have worked at MOXI Junction, since it opened four years ago.
“We really didn’t know what they were going to do after high school,” said the teens’ father, Mark Reimschisel. “This was a great opportunity for them, a great transition.”
The twins learned to bake at a young age and now, come in to work early to make their family recipes.
“2:30 a.m.,” said Brianna. “I make everything fresh every morning. I made cinnamon rolls, caramel rolls, coffeecake, scones, cookies.”
“They want to be here,” said Kilgore. “They truly want to be here. They truly want to work.”
That’s why Joanna and her manager, Richie Rathbun IV, hire the workers first, then figure out what skills they have.
“Y’know one person can do this. Someone else might have trouble doing that so you need to know each individual’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the group as a whole,” said Rathbun.
The employees aren’t the only ones learning. The community is taking away a lot more than a good cup of coffee.
Toddlers who attend a bi-weekly story hour at MOXI Junction model acceptance.
“They look at all my workers, and they’re just workers, the MOXI people,” said Kilgore. “They don’t look at them as having a disability. They don’t look at them as being different.”
The adults also have a new understanding of people with special needs.
Even the owner, who knew nothing about running a business or even making coffee before this, is now proof of the pep talk on her staircase– each step painted with a word, like INDEPENDENCE, HOPE, and FAITH.
At MOXI Junction, different IS the goal.
“Everybody fits in because a lot of us don’t fit in a lot of places,” said Kilgore. “It’s fun. Life is meant to be different people together.”