RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s lunchtime at Max’s Positive Vibe Cafe, and Jeremy Grisson is ready for the rush.
“I greet the people, and I seat the people,” says Grisson, who has more than a decade of experience. His is just one success story coming out of the program with a very personal mission.
“Young adults with disabilities are getting an opportunity to go out and find their own work,” says Garth Larcen, who opened the restaurant and training center with his son Max who has Muscular Dystrophy.
They started the program in 2005 with a modest goal: teach five or ten people a year how to wash dishes, bus tables and more. It has grown into something much bigger because there has been such a need.
“This past December, we had one thousand graduates,” Larcen says with a smile. “It has really exceeded our expectations.”
Nicole Reedy has been the Program Training Director since October and says she witnesses transformations every day.
“The students here are amazing,” Reedy explains. “Even though I’m teaching them, they have changed me in ways I’ll ever be able to repay them. A lot of our students come in feeling as if they don’t even have potential to get a job, and once they graduate they’re confident in themselves and they love it.”
One graduate, Chad Samms, says the program allowed him to realize talents he didn’t know he had.
“I like it here,” he simply states.
Adds Reedy, “If you’re never put in that environment, you don’t know what your potential is.”
Many graduates go on to food service jobs across the City.
A few, like Grisson, find permanent positions right where their food service careers all began. He grew up watching his mother touch lives as a nurse and says working at Max’s Positive Vibe Cafe is his way to connect.
“This is my way of helping people too,” Grisson gestures to the restaurant, which features a repurposed bank vault for private dining.
Customers also help keep the vision going.
“Every single penny or profit is going to help the community,” says Larcen. “It’s not going to anyone’s back wallet.”