Perking Up Y Members | Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana

Easterseals Arc consumers are learning new work skills as they perk up members of Parkview Family YMCA.

Austin, Jonquia and Heather are in a 12-week Employment Readiness Academy at the Parkview Y. The academy is a well-established program Easterseals Arc operates, but with a new feature: a coffee cart.

From 9 to 11 a.m. every weekday, the trio prepares regular coffee, decaf and a seasonal flavor. This fall, that short-term flavor on the menu is pumpkin spice. Dunkin Donuts white peppermint may replace it as Christmas approaches. The coffee crew, including Easterseals Arc staff member Angela Sparks, invites customers to vote on what they would like to see added to the offerings.

“We’ve had a request for hot cocoa,” Sparks said.

The coffee cart is only part of what Austin, Jonquia and Heather do at the Y during their three-month session of the Employment Readiness Academy. They also devote time each week to cleaning and to the Child Watch program, which provides supervision while Y members participate in Y activities. But the majority of their working time is spent setting up, selling coffee and closing down the cart daily.

All three participants in the Parkview YMCA ERA do their parts in keeping the coffee flowing. Austin is most likely to pour coffee and serve it to members. He’s also quick to brew fresh coffee, with coaching from Sparks, and to refill the air-pump pots when they run low.

When business picks up and more people are waiting to buy their $1 cups of coffee, Jonquia and Heather step in to help. But typically, when there’s no line of customers waiting on service, Heather takes payments from customers and clips out ballots that customers use to indicate the kind of drinks they would like to have in the future. Her favorite work at the Parkview Y is cleaning windows, she said.

And they stay busy, learning work and social skills at the Y.

“I try to get them to try new things,” Sparks said.

Austin, for example, scans visitors’ membership cards and checks IDs. Jonquia uses spreadsheets to track purchases and customer preferences.

Throughout their work, they benefit from the warm, inclusive atmosphere at the Parkview Y.

“The Y has always been positive. We’re right out here, interacting with members,” Sparks said. The Easterseals Arc participants working at the Y “are being treated like anyone else,” she said.

“Yeah, like a human,” Jonquia added.

The coffee cart opened for business Sept. 23 and will continue at least through the end of the current ERA program Dec. 20.