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New Willard eatery opens this weekend, helps special needs employees get valuable job experience

Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 5:36 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2022 at 8:38 AM CST
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WILLARD, Mo. (KY3) - Located in a strip mall just off Jackson Street in Willard is a new cafe-style eatery that may not look that different on the outside.

But The Hive is doing something very special on the inside....changing the lives of special needs employees who have been hired by the non-profit organization to learn about food production, service, and marketing as they work under the supervision of training staff.

“Very excited,” is how Malyssa McHaffie described her day at the soft-open on Friday when The Hive did a run-through in preparation for the real opening on Saturday, March 5.

Malyssa and her brother Logan McHaffie are among the 20 new employees.

“I really like the opportunity,” Logan said. “It’s teaching me how to better socialize and pick up on more social cues.”

“I’ve always enjoyed talking to people,” Malyssa added. “But since we’re homeschooled we don’t really get out very much. So it’s been great to be able to come here and talk everyone’s ears off.”

“That is our end goal,” said a smiling Melissa Skaggs, the President of The Hive who’s spent two years putting the business together. “That they’re going to be more independent and have more social and work skills. There’s a wide gambit of differing abilities. Sometimes you can realize it because maybe they’re walking or talking differently or using a wheelchair. But a lot of our special needs (employees) you don’t know that they’re differing needs. Maybe that person doesn’t want to disclose that. Maybe they’re on the autism spectrum. We have one of our employees who uses sign language instead of verbal talk.”

The Hive is certainly a much-needed concept because the unemployment rate for Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities is around 80 percent.

“And right now with the shortage of labor maybe more people will be open to hiring them,” Skaggs said.

Morgan Gudenkuf is loving every minute of his new experience as an employee at The Hive.

“It’s fun!” he said with a grin.

And when asked his favorite part of work so far?

“I love making hot chocolate,” he answered.

And making hot chocolate is just of the many opportunities employees may have never had before.

“Actually our two employees who are in their 30′s have never had a job before,” Skaggs said. “How come people are this old and they’ve never cracked an egg in a bowl and learned to measure? I can’t fathom that.”

The Hive will be open Monday-Saturday from 6:45 a.m. until 4 p.m. with a menu of pastries, soups, salads, sandwiches wraps, and deserts.

“We will be starting out with an abbreviated menu and hopefully adding to it in the next few weeks,” Skaggs pointed out. “Right now we’re working on consistency and employee excellence because we don’t want to overwhelm anyone.”

The business also includes a gift shop and donations are always welcome at a place whose name symbolizes what it’s all about.

“The hive is the strongest design known to man and it’s made by nature,” Skaggs explained. That’s what we want to simulate here. We’re very strong when we’re together working and producing something sweet.”

The restaurant is located at 304 E Jackson St Suite 5e in Willard.

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