Hugs Café has been in the making for more than 15 years and began as the dream of founder and president Ruth Thompson. Her vision was to create a nonprofit bistro that would be operated primarily by adults with special needs. She found her passion working with them in Parker, Colorado, and that served as the foundation for Hugs Café in 2013.
Upon moving to Texas in 2004, Thompson combined her love of people and food by teaching cooking classes to adults with special needs at Market Street, in McKinney. For nearly 10 years, she taught two classes per week, constantly striving to help her students develop new skills, become more independent and enhance their personal self-worth. After retiring from teaching, Thompson searched for new ways to enhance the lives of adults with special needs, and has channeled her energy toward making Hugs Café a reality
Thompson says that when someone with special needs ages out of the school system at 21, most stay home with no purpose. The mission of Hugs Café is to provide training and employment for adults with special needs that she calls teammates. The restaurant employs 11 teammates and five mainstream employees, a full-time restaurant manager and a full-time kitchen manager. All teammates work part-time, and are the heart of the restaurant. They also use community volunteers on a daily basis that act as job coaches and work alongside their teammates, making sure they are doing their jobs correctly. At times, volunteers are used in the kitchen, too.
Since forming Hugs Café, Thompson has surrounded herself with individuals from a variety of backgrounds that share her drive for people and service. This group comes from all walks of life and has decades of professional experience in nearly many fields. The board of directors has made great strides to make Hugs Café a reality, and will continue to help make a positive and lasting impact on all of its employees and the greater DFW community.
Thompson also recently opened Hugs Greenhouse. This allows the mission to pivot as they search for additional ways to serve adults with special needs. “This is just one more chance for us to fulfill that mission,” says Thompson. The products grown and sold at Hugs Greenhouses include a variety of perennials and annuals that survive and thrive in North Texas. They focus on hand-grown, fresh plants.
Hugs café is located at 224 E. Virginia St., in McKinney. The greenhouse is located at 3054 County Rd. 205. For more information, call 469-301-6900 or visit HugsCafe.org.
For more stories like this read Natural Awakenings Dallas-Ft Worth magazine at NADallas.com