“Everyday is a joy and a gift.”
-Derek Hunter

Derek Hunter

“Welcome to the Two. Welcome to the family.”

 

That’s the way Derek Hunter greets new jobseekers and their families. His message comes straight from the heart, and it’s delivered with a contagiously warm and enthusiastic smile.

From the moment you hear Derek speak about the Café and all things Two, you know that it’s a special place. It would have to be – considering it was inspired by such an incredible person.

When Derek was born with Down syndrome, his mom, Shari, wanted to make sure that diagnosis didn’t limit his life choices. The Café, Shops, Foundation, and Services that make up Two & Company is proof that it didn’t. Together, Derek and his family created their own path. Sharing that journey and creating opportunities for others was a natural next step.

Deciding on a name, which was “a really big memory” for Derek, and he can readily quote the Bible verse that inspired it. ‘Two are better than one, for if either of them falls, one can help the other up.’ -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. His drawing even became the logo and ever since, he has a hand in every aspect of the Two, as he calls it.

In addition to working with his family every day, which he loves, he enjoys his time with the job seekers, “coaching them along and seeing them succeeding – and I get a chance to learn from them too.”

“You wake up each day knowing that these guys will put a huge smile on your face,” Derek says, and he knows exactly how to do the same for the job-seekers.

“How’s mom and dad? How was your weekend?” he asks, because making “guys and ladies” feel welcome and feel loved is part of his job. He lets them know that even if they are nervous, “they are not alone. We can go through it together.”

“It’s our job to work alongside them to help them learn and grow. I love to see their smiling faces. To see them blossoming. So, they can be who they want to be and who God wants them to be.”

When he’s not teaching, Derek chats about his wife, Lauren, about being a proud uncle and about his favorite Café menu choices – the noodle bowl, the BLTs and, of course, the breakfast grilled cheese. When the topic of sampling bakery items came up, he laughed and said he’s “well-rounded” when it comes to his cookie preferences.

Derek looks forward to the chance for Two & Company to grow and reach out to more people in the community. He even has a bit of advice for those who’ve yet to visit or learn about what the Two has to offer. “Come in! They will love the experience. We would love it too.”

I met a mom at a United Way meeting who shared with me the challenges that her son was facing in the workplace after learning a bit about what we do at the Two Foundation.  She shared that he had graduated from a reputable technical college but because he was hearing impaired, he had not been able to secure a job in his field.  He ended working at a delicatessen which was very challenging since it was hard to hear across the counter.

We met with him and realized that he was losing confidence, very nervous because many customers were impatient with him.  We set up times to meet with him and worked on his resume, prepared for interviews, introduced him to our friends at HC Company. Within weeks, he was working on improvements for their manufacturing plant, full time with benefits.  We are thrilled to be able to come along side and be the bridge between one amazing graduate and one amazing business partner.

– Shari

We were approached by a middle age man that shared with us the challenges his sister-in-law was facing.  She had a condition that caused multiple seizures that left her unable to work for over 30 years. She finally received a medical procedure that successfully minimized her seizures so that she was able to function.  After 30 years, they were not sure how to reintroduce her to the workplace.

We were able to offer her a scholarship and she entered our training program. We set up an interview with one of our amazing business partners, Crumb and Spigot.  She was offered a job in their kitchen where she prepares food and completes other daily tasks. She is loyal, committed and so grateful for this opportunity to have her life back.  

– Shari

I had a parent call me to ask if their son could enter our job readiness training program since he was aging out of his high school at the age of 22.  He had several challenges but had a smile from ear to ear and was beyond excited to work.

We did a two-hour assessment to decide if we felt he could be ready for community employment upon graduation.  He impressed us with each task we asked him to perform. He surpassed all our expectations and works daily at a local Stone Oven bakery during their very busy lunch rush.

We were told that he may be the best employee the manager had ever hired.  We are so grateful that not only is he doing his job with excellence, but he is opening eyes and changing minds and hearts.

– Shari

I had a customer that would patronize the Two Café and Boutique at least once a month.  As I got to know him, he shared with me that he had a master’s degree in physics but had been unable to find a job for the last three years.  He struggled with social skills and lacked confidence when it came to his interviewing skills.

I had the owner of an energy company that frequented the café to meet with this individual to see if there might be a match.  This gentleman is now writing computer programming for this energy company.

So much of what we do is simply connecting individuals with specific skill sets and strengths to the right companies, and the right hearts and we have a winning combination!

– Shari

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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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