HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) — Festive Cup Coffee and Gift Boutique is aiming to fill gaps and break barriers in the Highlands Ranch community.

Owner Amy Lunstra, who is a former ThunderRidge High School special education teacher, noticed that there were few to zero opportunities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities outside of school.

“I built these relationships with families and they started talking about the transition for their adult or their child with special needs into adulthood. That transition is really difficult and just painful,” Lunstra said. “I started listening to their concerns and they were just expressing that there wasn’t a program in Highlands Ranch, and once they turn 21 and transition out of schools, then there isn’t the next step for them in their neighborhood.”

With a vision in mind, Lunstra purchased Festive Cup Coffee in June 2020 from the family of a former student at ThunderRidge. Then in January 2021, she hired the shop’s first employee with IDD.

“As I got acclimated to business ownership, we were able to hire another adult that we would support, and then another, and now we employ 12 adults with special needs or 12 adults with IDD, and it’s awesome,” she said.

Hope that hiring adults with IDD becomes widespread

Workers at the shop are not only paid a minimum wage, but they are learning independence and the value that they hold.

“We have a couple of our adults, three or four of them now, that can easily work the espresso machine and it’s awesome to see,” she said. “The registers are a little bit more daunting because there’s so many more choices, but they are getting it and we have modifications for plans that will create for more independence.”

Lunstra’s hope is that her coffee shop will create a ripple effect in the community and encourage other businesses to hire adults with IDD.

“They want to do things on their own by themselves and, you know, I think denying that piece is a huge disservice to an amazing group of humans,” she said. “If other business owners want to do something like this, reach out to another business like me and say, ‘Hey, I own an auto shop. How can I do what you’re doing?'”

Kathy Myers, a regular at the coffee shop, said she hopes the shop continues to grow and people will be more accepting of adults with IDD.

“They’re so warm and inviting, and they’re so patient with them. It’s really a great place,” she said.

For the future, Lunstra said she intends to go even bigger and create a nonprofit agency for adults with IDD in the Highlands Ranch community.

“Our main focus will be job coaching and vocational training, and we’ll also end up supporting connections out in the community, either volunteering or going out and just doing things that the general public do on a daily basis,” Lunstra said. “Go to lunch with a friend, go you know, explore a museum or take a hike or any of those things that we like to do for fun when living in Colorado.”

Lunstra said that while beginning this journey was hard, she is proud of what her coffee shop has been creating.

“They have given me so much that I hope that in some way I’m giving back to them,” she said. “It’s not about anything other than wanting to do something kind.”