SPOTLIGHT on SUCCESS A SWEET Success Story: Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates By Sharon Fuentes and Photos by Conner Cummings It’s hard to pinpoint just what makes Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates so inviting. It might be the vibrant burst of colors on the walls or maybe the enticing display case of goodies just begging to be tried. Perhaps it’s the smell of freshly brewed lattes or the warm, friendly “Welcome to Cameron’s!” greeting you receive as you walk through the front doors. Whatever it is, once you have been to this unique bakery, you will most definitely go back! Jim and Ellen Graham wanted what most loving parents want—for their child to be happy! Their autistic daughter Cameron had a job at a local grocery store helping with the self-checkout lines, but when break time came, Cameron felt left out, alone. The Grahams knew that their daughter, who had aged out of the school system, needed more. She needed a sense of community, she needed to learn life skills, she needed to feel as if what she did mattered, and most of all, she needed a safe place in which to do it all. Cameron, who had graduated from a two-year catering Cameron, who had graduated from a two-year catering program at a transitioning training center loved to bake, so the Grahams set out to see how they could turn her passion into a full-time job! 58 Zoom Autism Through Many Lenses program at a transitioning training center, loved to bake, so the Grahams set out to see how they could turn her passion into a full-time job! What began as a personal mission to offer Cameron meaningful employment quickly grew into a successful small business and non-profit focused on offering individuals with autism or intellectual disabilities an opportunity to master their own culinary skills, interact with the public and earn a paycheck while doing it! On the day we visited the shop, while I sipped my vanilla mocha latte and nibbled on my pumpkin muffin with chocolate ganache, I could not help but smile as friendly employees approached our table to see how we were enjoying our treats. This is not just a job for these individuals; it is being a part of something and taking pride in their product. And let me be the first to tell you that they have reason to be proud because that muffin was good! That is precisely why Cameron’s is doing so well. While people may originally come to support a wonderful cause, they keep coming back because the chocolates and other products are made with the best ingredients and taste incredible! No need to feel guilty about eating these chocolates! The Grahams want to encourage more businesses like Cameron’s, where the employees are not just shadowing but actually working. “It is a lot of work, but when you are helping your child follow their passion, well, you don’t mind spending the time and energy it takes to make it happen.” says Ellen. She also offered the following advice to other parents, “Start small; no one says you have to be grand. Reach out to your community and don’t be afraid to take a chance.” For more information on Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates and Every 1 Can Work, the nonprofit started by the Grahams, visit their website.