Zab’s Place and Friendship Circle

Friendship Circle & ZABS Place
100 N Trade St, Matthews, NC 28105

Social Media: @FCclt @ZABSPlace
Phone: 704.724.6270
Name of contact/founders: Rochel and Rabbi Bentzion Groner | Executive Director, Friendship Circle & ZABS Place

Resale boutique in suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina run by people with disabilities and Friendship Circle.

My Visit:

In the summer of 2017, I spent a day and a half at Zab’s Place near Charlotte, NC with Rabbi Bentzion and Rochel Groner, founders of Friendship Circle in Charlotte. They are also founders of Zab’s Place. I wrote the article above for and have re-contacted them in December, 2018 for an update on the program and to ask about challenges and lessons learned.

From Website:

Our Mission: Our goal is to make dreams come true for young adults with special talents. We strive to address the critical shortage of employment opportunities for young adults with special needs by providing jobs with personalized training. With an estimated 66,000 adults with special needs currently living in Mecklenburg County and a national employment rate of 18.7% in 2017, ZABS Place seeks to shift the paradigm by assessing the abilities and skills of individuals and customizing training to harness their special talents.

Our Vision: We envision a community where young adults with special needs can transition from high school to the adult working world with dignity. With the launch of ZABS Place, we see the Charlotte community more able to recognize abilities in others and see past external differences. We foresee special young adults able to capitalize on their strengths, acquire essential job skills, realize their potential, and gain confidence in interacting with their typically developing peers.

ZAB’s Place Updates November 18, 2018)

1. NBC’s Today’s Show came to ZABS Place November 12th, 13th and 14th, filmed the daily happenings at ZABS an interviewed our ZABS Talent. We’re not sure when it will air but we’ll keep you posted!

2. We recently launched a Talent Accelerator Program to help mentor our Young Adults on advancing their skill positions and launching their careers. We’re also stepping up our placement program to help educate local businesses on potentially hiring our graduates.

3. Our Recent Pajama Walk (to make dreams come true for individuals with special needs/talents) hosted an Ability Fair where we invited individuals with special needs from all over our community to display their art and creations and sell them to Pajama Walk Participants.

4. In September ZABS Place was selected as one of four local non-profits to receive 24 hours of Pro Bono Marketing/Branding services by the prestigious LGA Marketing Agency. It’s called Goodstock and a team of 15 marketing professionals helped refresh the ZABS Place branding and helped us create a definitive identity. Here is a brief presentation of what they created for us, as well as a video they created for us as well. On top of all that, they even made a monetary donation!

Lesson’s Learned/Observations:

  • Issue of payment for the work is tricky due to concern around losing government benefits if earnings are too high.
  • We prefer the term “Special Talents” over “special needs” or “disabilities.”
  • There is no set system that works for everyone when it comes with young adults with special talents. Everyone needs his or her own plan.  (Example:  One person is learning to greet customers and one is learning to NOT greet every single customer (one is very shy and needs help in social aspect; one gets too friendly and needs to learn to say hi one time and that’s it).  Each person has his or her own plan which identifies skill areas and areas in need of growth.  There is no one size fits all. Each individual is treated as an individual. As they saying goes. If you know 5 individuals with autism, you know 5 individuals with autism (and they are all different!)
  • It is important to track progress.  We do it through a Talent Accelerator and follow how participants get from Point A to Point B.  We don’t just hire for a job and check a box.  We want to see the person get form a to b, tracking a goal, and skills they are learning to grow and develop.  Each person’s point b is different based on passions, interests, areas they need help in.  This is crucial part of any plan to hire people with special talents.  One man in our program wants to be a car salesman but his challenge is with actual communicating and asking questions and identifying tasks he needs to to—we are working with him on going for an interview with a mechanical company to work with cars (coaching is on prep for interview)

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