LENOIR CITY, Tenn. — People relying on caffeine to get through the day can attest that a cup of coffee can change everything.
That's especially true at Riverside Coffee Shop in Lenoir City.
Offering more than delicious lattes and mouthwatering pastries, the nonprofit is a safe place for people with special needs to learn essential life skills.
The mission is to change lives.
Isabel Hanson has been an employee at Riverside for eight months. It's the 20-year-old's first job. "When I started working here, I didn't even know what a latte was," she said. Nearly one year after her first day on the job, she's a whiz behind the counter—taking orders and making drinks.
Founder and Board Certified Behavior Analyst Angela Lee developed the programs at Riverside with her son Tristan in mind.
"I have my own son with Down syndrome, so I guess I had an idea in my mind of things that I knew he needed to learn," Lee said.
Riverside employs people with special needs and offers vocational, personal and life training. The programs utilize Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a scientific-based approach, to teach skills such as money management and nutrition-based cooking.
The organization opened in late 2021 and is now reaching more people than ever.
"We're up to about eight or nine students, and we're super excited," Lee said. "We're already thinking of expanding. We're very close to capacity for this group. As long as students keep coming in, we're going to keep providing service."
Online applications are available for those interested in enrolling in the programs offered at Riverside.
The coffee shop is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.