BY ROBIN ERB | SPECIAL TO THE MIRROR — Kendra Amborski’s smile is as welcoming and reliable as the piping hot, eye-opening coffee she serves at Georgette’s Grounds & Gifts. So is her ability to whip up a cup of joe – a carefully customized formula based on each customer’s personal tastes and mood, and even the weather outside.
“A raspberry coffee is better cold and if you like something a bit sweet and you’re feeling happy, but others don’t like a lot of sugar, or maybe they want something warm,” she said recently against the clatter and hum of the busy uptown Maumee coffee shop. “I love asking people how they’re doing and what they feel like that day. They become friends.”
The 29-year-old Georgette’s crewmember was recently named one of six 2018 ambassadors by Sunshine Com-munities, which supports people with developmental disabilities. Sunshine owns and operates Georgette’s and Sunshine Studios, two doors down, as part of its supported employment program. Georgette’s and the studios employ crewmembers with a variety of developmental disabilities. They are supported by a specially trained staff that works not only in food prep, customer service and art, but also serves as job coaches.
For her part, Kendra struggles with memory loss as a result of a traumatic brain injury sustained in a 2006 traffic accident, said Joyce Amborski, Kendra’s mother. Kendra was 18 at the time, had graduated from Anthony Wayne High School and was poised to attend Owens Community College that fall. The brain injury shifted Kendra’s future onto a different path.
Since then, Kendra has struggled to hone her memory skills, resulting in situations in which she is unable to find the right words in the middle of a conversation. Georgette’s is not only purposeful employment; it also enables Kendra to practice those skills, Joyce said.
“Georgette’s challenges her,” she said. “Working for Georgette’s has helped her to build self-confidence and to continue with her recovery process.”
Kendra said Georgette’s has done something else for her: It has helped her rebuild her confidence because the customers have come to know her by name, asking her about her latest news or her most recent caffeinated (or non-caffeinated) creations.
“I just feel like I’m better at everything now. Everyone is so nice, and it makes my job easy. I just love it,” Kendra said.
Nearby, a group of railroad retirees had gathered for their normal Tuesday morning coffee. A few moments earlier, each had waved or took turns saying hello to Kendra as they settled around their regular table in the back of the restaurant.
The retirees’ group fired off examples of Kendra’s customer service skills.
“She doesn’t wait for you to talk to her. She’s ready when you walk in to say, ‘Hi,’” said Don Koch, who drives in each week from Blissfield.
In many ways, Kendra is simply the most enthusiastic of the entire crew at Georgette’s, he and others said.
“You can say these things about everyone here,” said Hank Holland, of Perrysburg. “They’re just all No. 1.”
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