Comments from Ben Peerless:

“Before joining the Two Foundation’s program, I had never had a permanent job that offered pay and benefits. Historically, I was actively volunteering with a local group that I was with for a long time. Through the Two job training program, I learned many skills and met many people I would not have otherwise experienced. I learned how to better myself and improve my customer service skills (which was my dream field), and my work speed improved drastically. I graduated from the Two in 2016 and was a graduate of the 2nd class of Two Foundation graduates.

“Two Cafe is definitely one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’m now able to work and stay on task for long periods of time, and the job at Home Depot was and still is a great fit for me. I feel like I fit in well there. In late summer of 2022, my greeter position at Home Depot that I held for 6 years was eliminated. The Two Cafe provided the support I needed with a job coach to help me transition into new job opportunity at Home Depot. They helped me learn several tasks within the Customer
Service Department. I have now been a member of the Customer Service Team for almost a year and am very satisfied with my current job. I mainly take returns back to their appropriate departments, support the Customer Service Reps/Supervisors with various behind the scenes tasks, and keep the merchandise neat and orderly on the shelves throughout the store”.

OUR MISSION:

To provide opportunities for people of every ability to Connect, Work, Grow and Thrive.

The Two Foundation exists to create a movement of full integration in the local workforce for individuals with exceptionalities. We do this, by bridging the gap between individuals and local business partners. We prepare, place, and support our job seekers, and do all we can to ensure long term success in the workplace.

Comments from Carrie Jaeger – Human Resources with Home Depot:

“Ben is a great part of our Home Depot Family. He follows directions well to complete tasks that are given to him and asks what else he needs to do. Ben comes to work with a positive attitude, he is caring and kind to others.”

Comments from Ben’s mom (Sharon Peerless):

“Joining the Two Program helped Ben grow a great deal. Since his graduation from the Two and securing fully integrated employment at Home Depot, Ben’s social skills have significantly improved and it’s clear he feels better about himself. His self-esteem is stronger, and he has more confidence interacting with all different people, in many different environments. Ben is very happy working at Home Depot and is thankful for such a great opportunity to learn and continue to develop and strengthen his skills.”

Comments from Pam Sraeel (Business Partner Liaison, Two Foundation):

Ben has come a long way since I first met him in late 2021. He was initially a greeter at Home Depot, but we knew he was capable of much more. As soon as we heard that they planned to phase out the greeter position, we pursued securing more challenging responsibilities for Ben. He was excited about the prospect of being challenged and learning new things, and Ben had risen to the challenge. He’s doing a great job helping with the service desk and the return process. In talking with a few of Ben’s managers (Sonny and Brandon), they’ve shared that Ben is doing great. He works hard and does a good job at the customer service desk and takes the initiative to find other work to do if things are slower at the service desk. Ben is always willing to help his coworkers with whatever they need. He remains happy working at Home Depot and is enjoying the new tasks and challenges.

“We are doing this out of love and although many agencies have great intentions, you cannot legislate love. We are here to offer the best that we can to all we serve because we love them.”
–Shari Hunter

We often hear about a mother’s love—so powerful, infinite, unconditional. When you meet Shari Hunter, you not only see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice, when you visit Two & Company, you get to experience the incredible life-changing outcomes that her love is cultivating every day.

That experience begins with the Café at Two & Company. The space is warm and inviting. You see a hand-chalked menu board. You hear the familiar sounds of expresso machines and a staff busy taking care of customers. What you may not notice is that this bustling café also serves as training opportunity for people of every ability. One that focuses less on limitations and more on possibilities. Which is exactly what Shari aims to provide.

Shari’s efforts have grown to include the Café, Shops, Services and The Two Foundation, which together are collectively known as Two & Company. Her vision for this ever-expanding collection of services can be summarized in three simple, hopeful, empowering words. Life without labels.

“We are not a special place for special people. I think we are very different because we start at a different place than most agencies or service providers. We start with inclusion, rather than segregation, and build in the supports needed for each individual’s success. Every person is here for a reason, and we exist to help them find their purpose. Our philosophy is inclusion through and through. We believe to our core that we are all people who belong together, and we are all better for it.”

With Shari and her three children at the helm, Two & Company continues working to alter traditional mindsets and break down stigmas and stereotypes in the workplace and in the communities beyond.

“One person, family, school, business and community at a time, we can change the future for those we love and serve. That is our ultimate goal and dream.” With the love of an incredible family and the support of a willing community there’s no limit to what Two & Company can accomplish. Shari agrees, “We’ve set our sights on achieving a beautiful, inclusive future. We’re determined to get there. And we know we can do it better together.”

“It is such a privilege to be able to serve, work with, 
and connect all of the different people involved in this 
process. I get to see first-hand the life-changing impact 
on the individual and families, the culture changing impact 
within companies, and in our community. It proves that 
we all do life better together.” – Christian Hunter, VP Operations

The Two & Company team has collected story after story about the successes, connections and friendships that have blossomed thanks to participation in the camps and programs they offer.

Recently, a mom of a camper shared her appreciation for the lasting friendships her daughter made through her Job Readiness camp. Before attending, her daughter had a hard time making friends. Afterward, she was invited to her first birthday party as well as her first movie night with friends. Hearing from former students and their parents about the successes they are experiencing warms Shari’s heart. “Nothing makes us happier than to hear our graduates or campers are experiencing relationships that are enriching their lives in so many ways.”

Beyond personal growth opportunities, the team can share many stories of their graduates finding professional success. BJ, for example, who was struggling to find opportunities and began to fall into negative habits as a result. Once he began training at the Café, BJ immediately felt a sense of belonging and worked hard to learn and complete every responsibility. Every day he continued proving to the staff and to himself just how capable of an employee he could be. Today, BJ works at a large hotel chain and has shared many exceptional reports. Adds Shari, “The pride on his face and his newfound purpose is all we need to keep us moving forward.”

The effects of the programs and interactions at Two & Company are impactful in so many ways. From first friendships, to meaningful and fulfilling careers opportunities to the regulars who swear by the delicious lattes and infamous tuna melts, grilled cheese and BLT sandwiches, the company you’ll find here is heart-warming. It’s also beyond compare.

Each quarter former graduates are invited back to the Café simply to socialize and catch up with friends, families and the Two & Company team. Derek enjoys hearing what’s going on in their new jobs and in their personal lives. “They came here as job-seekers, then, coworkers,” says Derek, “but they leave as friends.”

 

It is hard to believe that the Two Foundation is six years old and the Two Café and Boutique is over four and a half years old.

It is even harder to believe on a personal note, that my children are 30, 28 and 26 years old. Time has flown by and I cherish each age, stage and moment that I have with them. They have gone from babies to children to teenagers and now adults. My eldest has even transitioned into parenthood and what a joy that has been!

Life is full of transitions and if there is one word that describes the “What we do?” at the Two, it is TRANSITION. The word that describes the “Why we do it?” is HOPE.

In this post, I am going to focus on the Transition.

Our goal at the Two is to transition individuals into the work-place, after high school, or out of a segregated work setting. We know that this is where many of those we serve struggle the most. “What happens after high school,” is a question that we hear a lot. As a team, we strive to assess the strengths and interests of those that go through our job readiness program and then make a match with one of our amazing business partners. We are so proud of our graduates and their successes!

Beyond that mission, we want our community, and society to understand that we are NOT “a special place for special people”. We are all just people with strengths and weaknesses, working and doing life together. We are a place of business that models every day what a truly integrated community looks like, and we should be nothing unique. A place where all are embraced regardless of label or exceptionality. We all have something, and it is time we understand that.

As we embark on our children’s services, what an inspiration it is to watch as our teachers live out our motto, “Serving all Children, Embracing all Abilities”. It touches my heart to be able to offer parents a place where their child belongs regardless of diagnosis or label. Here, at the Two, they are not only welcomed but loved. Those “typical children” that attended our “Integrated Young Entrepreneurs” summer camp, will hopefully be searching for those in school this year that need a friend or an extra hand. These children will become the natural supports that will be needed in “tomorrows” workforce.

These are the outcomes that we are really after – a movement that will spread across the country – an understanding that we all need each other to do life best. That the things that make us different may be the very things needed to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow – that life is so much better when we do it TWOGETHER.

 

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9 and 10 (paraphrase): Two are better than one, when one falls down there is someone there to pick you up and the return for your labor is even greater.

-Shari

#fullyintegrate #integrate #jobplacement #jobreadiness

We love hearing from our Grads about how they have grown in their career journey. Here is a snapshot from one of our grads. Katie, we are so proud of what you have accomplished!

 

“Working at a home improvement store has taught me to act appropriately even when difficult, and self-regulate my behavior. Working in retail has given me an opportunity to practice my social skills in a professional environment. For that, I’m very grateful and for many of my supervisors and co-workers.

“I have appreciated all the current skills that my current job has taught me. I have grown personally and professionally, particularly thanks to my supervisor.”

– Katie

Just wondering how many parents got through the movie Wonder with dry eyes.  I know it was impossible for me to do as my third child was born with an exceptionality (aren’t we all😊).

The movie brought to light so many different perspectives from the viewpoint of the child, his parents, siblings, peers, other parents, school staff, and society.

It was heart-wrenching to watch as the child struggled to be brave and face his fears of rejection and ridicule as he started school.  It was beautiful to see how his confidence grew as he gained the strength and was ready to lose the mask and be okay it.

I couldn’t help but relate to Julia Roberts’ character as she struggled to integrate her son into society all the while knowing the pain that her son would experience.  I don’t believe there is much in life that compares to the heartache of a mom desperately wanting to protect their precious child from harm but realizing that it will come.  She must allow it to happen to a degree to get her child where he or she needs to be.  I am not a father, but I am sure the inward struggle is much the same.  The reward is great as the child comes through to the other side with new found confidence, compassion for others and strong character.

This movie brought to light for me what my two older children must have experienced throughout their childhood as I was very focused on making sure that all was okay for my youngest. 

I am forever grateful for two older children‘s understanding and unconditional love.  I know they are forever impacted by having such a special younger brother.  They are much of the reason my youngest is so amazing.

What a blessing the school principal and teacher were as they advocated with tender hearts and had compassion for their exceptional student.  I am so grateful for those educators that do all they can to help support, encourage and provide guidance as it is so desperately needed in our schools today.

Lastly, it showed the lack of understanding and compassion from the bully’s parents. Really, just a microcosm of what exists in society today.  There are those that lack compassion and an overall understanding of what really matters in life.  Goodness, kindness, love, compassion, and acceptance of all no matter what the differences may be.

At the Two, we celebrate strengths and diversities.  We believe that the things that make us “different” are the very things that make us extra special!

-Shari Hunter

#accepting #exceptional #school #wonder

The idea of the Two Foundation came from the verse Ecclesiastes 4: 9 and 10. “Two are better than one because they have a good return on their work. If one falls down, the other can pick him up.”

It also comes from the concept of the “peer buddy system” used in some schools. Instead of an adult aide helping the student, another student is trained and brought alongside to guide and model. It is a win, win for all involved. Our goal is to recreate the “peer buddy system” in the workplace. Two will train a fellow employee who will then become the job coach and support for our Two clients to ensure full integration into the workplace. We desire to come alongside families to support, encourage and provide the latest information as they raise, love and guide their family member into the workplace. This is a continuation of a journey I started twenty years ago.

I am so excited to see where this leads us as we venture together into the workplace.

Shari Hunter (Founder, CEO, MOM)

#TheBeginning #Two

A growing number of students on IEPs are leaving high school with job skills, but employment opportunities are limited.

Schools are focusing education on academic and vocational skills that will benefit the individuals after high school, but the businesses are not always affording the opportunities of employment to this population. Partnerships with local businesses will give students the opportunity to gain high-level skills necessary to move on to the next level of employment. The majority of the students would not need supported employment for an extended time.

When businesses open their doors to form a partnership with the schools, they are in actuality increasing their business. Local school employees and families would be more likely to support businesses that support students. Another advantage of schools and business forming partnerships would be that the businesses could inform the school of the specific job skills that are necessary for students to be successful in various fields of employment.

The schools, in turn, could incorporate them into their vocational training, therefore, producing students ready to work and decrease on the job training.

A partnership would be a win-win situation for all parties.

#Highschool #Schools #Two

One magic day she passed my way; the greatest thing you ever learn is to love and be loved in return. To my 25-year-old daughter, Lauren, my heart is filled with gratitude. We have come a long way together. I believe in chasing dreams and all my dreams for you came true. It’s amazing what love can do!

Now it has come time for me to let you go; to spread your wings and fly. Whatever you are is perfect to me, but I know you have goals and dreams for your life that you want to see come true. I am your biggest fan and as long as I live I will be routing you on, encouraging you to dream BIG.

So give it all you’ve got. Here’s to life and all the joy it brings. Here’s to life and dreamers of their dreams. Here’s to life; here’s to love; here’s to you, my pride and joy, Lauren.

So you see, my involvement in the Two Foundation is a matter of the heart. I want to be a part of a mission team where we dream to see others dreams for their lives come true.

Written by: Donna Fayerman
Two Foundation Board Member

#MOM #Two

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It takes a village

Two & Company, which encompasses the café, shops, job services and the foundation, has outgrown the space we've been leasing since 2015. We purchased a building to $1.6 million dollars with 6,800 square feet that will have space for training, café, shops, and business offices. The costs for the building and renovations are estimated to be $4 million dollars. With your generous donations we have raised $2.3 million dollars!

We want to provide the best of the best in a state of the art facility in the center of Chargin Falls. We want to serve as the premier model for integration of individuals with exceptionalities and provide our community with an amazing dining and shopping experience.

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