CAMDENTON, Mo. – A spice shop in Camdenton is giving people with disabilities a chance to earn income and get real-world work experience – an opportunity many of them have never had before.
Rebecca Christiansen, owner of A Pinch of Happiness, runs a nonprofit organization, Celebrate Differences, through her spice shop by employing those with disabilities.
Celebrate Differences is geared toward families with disabled children who are in need of better resources. When Christiansen bought the local spice shop, she immediately made employment a part of the Celebrate Differences program and began the hiring process.
“I really don’t even cook that much,” she said. “I just had a passion for helping individuals with disabilities. Through some of my adult programs, they would ask for me a job, and what I realized is that they were coming out of school and did not have all the skills they needed to hold down a job.”
Christiansen told The Heartlander her idea for the nonprofit came around 2004 when her twin sons were born.
“One was born with down syndrome and one wasn’t,” Christiansen said. “I always say I have one with special needs and one who is especially needy. That’s my little joke.”
Employees at A Pinch of Happiness get the chance to learn many skills including inventory, money handling, customer service, janitorial duties and how to read a measuring cup.
The store partners with Camdenton High School’s special education department to help disabled students get involved with the program. At the conclusion of the 2022 school year, Celebrate Differences had 11 workers with disabilities at A Pinch of Happiness.
“Currently, I have one employed and two that are getting ready to hire on,” Christiansen said. “They went through our training program. We will have three employed, but starting in August when school starts back up, we will have many more young adults in here.”
Christiansen says the Camdenton community has been very supportive of Celebrate Differences from the start, and has shown major interest in its mission of helping those with disabilities.
“It has been overwhelming and amazing. We’re so blessed with this community. They’re so supportive.”