Exceptional Entrepreneurs program empowers people with special needs

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Kelly Allo is all smiles, as she is happy to be hanging out with “friends.” She is one of 18 adults, who are working with Grace Church’s Exceptional Entrepreneurs program.

“She’s 30 years old, but this is her first job, so it’s very touching for us,” Marybeth Allo said, Kelly’s mother and caretaker. “She has cerebral palsy, and she is also mentally challenged.”

Marybeth said the Cape Coral program has given her daughter a new sense of purpose. In September, she had her 30th birthday party. It was the first birthday party that she was joined by her friends.

Now, she works alongside them — putting together products for profit, piece-by-piece.

Special needs adults in the program, contributing as a team. Photo via WINK News.
Special needs adults in the program, contributing as a team. Photo via WINK News.

“We have people that do maybe the cutting out, people that do sanding, people that do assembling and then finish work,” Margaret Wear said, the Exceptional Entrepreneurs program director. “It’s actually a unique way of creating a product so it’s kind of a group entrepreneurship.”

And — ta da!

After piecing everything together, it ends up just a few doors down, where people can come shop. Each customer helps support the program.

“It’s to help people here to do a lot of things and get them in the workforce,” Patricia Nieliwocki said, a participant of the Exceptional Entrepreneurs program. “I try to come everyday if I can.”

“She feels like she’s part of the community, part of society,” Jane Conrad said, Patricia’s older sister and caretaker.

“It’s made her less than being less than,” Marybeth said, “she’s equal.”

The program sells its merchandise at The Gathering Table — 601 Del Prado Boulevard N –in Cape Coral.

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