This month, Dutton Farm's Thrifts and Gifts officially opens in Rochester.
It's the latest effort of Jeanette Brown and her mom Michele Smither, who wanted to create a place where people with special needs could work and earn money.
They started Dutton Farm in 2010 after seeing the need for programs for their sister/daughter, Becca Smither, who has Down syndrome. At the nonprofit, individuals with special needs learn job and communication skills.
There's a "huge shortage" of job opportunities, says Brown, the farm's program coordinator – especially in this competitive job market.
The new store is changing that. It sells resale items varying from home goods to toys and all-natural products made at the farm, like soap and creams. Staff ranges in age from 17 to 55 years old, Brown says, and their disabilities vary. The goal is to provide a safe, comfortable environment to work in.
"We can come alongside them and give them success and give them confidence and give them meaning and purpose," Brown says. Plus, it gives both the community and workers a chance to positively interact and can "help bridge the gap," she adds.