Retired Special Education Teacher Utilizes Savings to Open Coffee Shop, Employs Former Students

By Jo Napolitano
December 20, 2023

Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. 

In the summer of last year, Hillary Barber was eagerly awaiting a white envelope. Barber, who has cerebral palsy, had applied for a job at a soon-to-open coffee house in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Like many adults with developmental disabilities, Barber had struggled to find work after graduating from high school in 2013. This job offer could change everything for her. “It is with great pleasure that I extend the following employment offer to you,” the invitation from Sleepy Coffee, Too read.

Hillary Barber with the offer letter from Sleepy Coffee, Too in 2021 (Hillary Barber)

Upon receiving the letter, Barber felt immense joy and relief. This job opportunity marked a significant milestone for her, as it would be her first paid position. The employment rate for people with disabilities is still relatively low, with only 21.3% of them employed in 2022, compared to 65.4% for those without disabilities. Sleepy Coffee, Too, a smaller offshoot of the main coffee shop, opened its doors in June 2023. The shop employs Barber and 16 other adults with developmental disabilities.

The staff at Sleepy Coffee, Too, many of whom are former students of founder Kim Kaczmarek, demonstrate remarkable dedication and communication skills. Kaczmarek, a retired special education teacher, invested $125,000 of her own money to open the shop and provide employment opportunities for her former students. The shop has been a success, and the business is now planning to move to a larger location in downtown Sleepy Hollow to expand its operations.

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