Blue & Bold: Reiser Helps Organize Local Coffee Shop Fundraiser

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The opening of Anastasia and Katie’s coffee shop December 2019. Image from https://www.miworkmatters.org/

Matty Rosentreter

The Bleu Print is proud to present Blue & Bold, which features a Chelsea School District employee each week with a unique story to tell. If you have an idea of a CSD employee who would make a great feature, email us at chelseahsbleuprint@gmail.com.

Science teacher Ms. Holly Reiser participated in a golf outing over the summer for Anastasia and Katie’s, a coffee shop that employs people with developmental disabilities, to promote business practices that make more jobs accessible.

“Family connection is what started my involvement with the group,” Reiser said. “Anastasia is actually my cousin’s daughter. Her mom has been instrumental in creating this coffee shop.”

Anastasia’s and Katie’s is the first business of its kind. Reiser’s mother is heavily involved in the charity network that supports the shop, Mi Work Matters, an organization focused on finding meaningful work for people with developmental disabilities.

“The shop also provides job training for people who may want to go out into another field of employment, and Mi Work Matters has had spokespeople with developmental disabilities going around the state giving public speeches about the work that they do there and how employment has helped change their lives,” Reiser said. “Their ultimate goal is really getting other companies to hire people with developmental disabilities.”

Mi Work Matters started in 2018 and plans to expand to other businesses that support employees with developmental disabilities. According to a pamphlet the group released, the unemployment rate rate of people without disabilities in Michigan is 9%, while the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 81%.

“Anastasia has down syndrome, and so the coffee shop is really her dream job as a teenager,” Reiser said. “The whole inspiration for our family was finding employment for her for when she’s a young adult and adult. Her parents were concerned about ‘what is my daughter going to do when she’s an adult, how is she going to be able to take care of herself,’ because there is a huge discrepancy in wages between people with disabilities and people without.”

Addressing this discrepancy and changing the way employment looks for people with disabilities is why the fundraisers the coffee shop puts on are so important.

“The golf outing that I was at is their biggest fundraiser of the year,” Reiser said. “We were able to raise a lot of funds this year, which was great because they were a little bit worried about staying afloat during the pandemic.”

The golfers followed state guidelines, which included wearing masks and limiting golf cart capacity to only two people. Reiser was heavily involved in helping people with the guidelines and setting up the event.

“My role was primarily on the day of,” she said. “I didn’t do a whole lot of the planning ahead of time, that was more my mom, I mostly drove the photographer around in a golf cart, because a big part of any non-profit or charity is advertising what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. I have another cousin who is a professional photographer, so she and I went around and photographed different groups who were there and talked to them a bit about their different connections to the charity and why they were there.”

Reiser not only helped the photographer, but she was also involved in set-up and clean up for the entire event.

“My mom and I got there before it was light out, and set everything up outdoors, and we had a silent auction so we set up all the items for sale, some swag for the coffee shop to promote the shop,” she said. “It was a pretty long day, but it was fun.”

Reiser has been involved in similar events, including charity walks for down syndrome awareness, for years. She and her family work hard to make better conditions for people like Anastasia. She encourages students to get involved as well.

“I’ve had students in the past wearing shirts that were from the same walk I’ve done, and I could say ‘oh hey, my family does that, too,’” she said. “That’s a neat connection to have with students.”

Her number one suggestion for students who want to support Anastasia and Katie’s is to visit the shop itself. Since it’s in Livonia, though, she can share contact information for Mi Work Matters with students who reach out to her for more local events.

“I’m more than happy to get students involved if they’re interested,” she said. “It’s a great cause, and an example of an accessible workplace. Anastasia’s and Katie’s can be a sounding board for education and avocation.”