It was just a coincidence that it was Dr. Martin Luther King Day, the cold, snowy afternoon that I met Shelly Henley at a local Starbucks. A coincidence, but it was so fitting because she has a dream. Employment opportunities for people who have the following character traits is Shelly’s dream.
Not Easily Distracted
Dedicated to Doing The Best Work Possible
Loyal and Honest
Demonstrates Integrity on the Job
Avoids Social Drama
Sounds simple. Right? Those are the characteristics of her son who has Autism. Shelly’s dream is for employers to look beyond the fact that he doesn’t have the social skills to get through an interview and to see his value and capability as an employee. She wants the opportunity for her son and others with Autism to earn a paycheck.
So what does this mom with a dream do? She takes a risk for her son and others like him and invests her time and money in them. She becomes their employer.
May, 2017, Shelly opened a bakery business called No Label At The Table. This bakery specializes in baked goods that are gluten and dairy free. This thriving business has grown from providing goods for one local farmer’s market to providing goods for three markets. February, 2018, No Label At The Table will have its own permanent location open daily in Carmel, Indiana and will employ up to twenty people, most with Autism. “There is dignity in work and earning a paycheck,“ Shelly said. She told me that by finding the potential in each employee, she gets so much in return as their boss. She told me over and over, “I am just so proud of them all.”
“Do not let this post you write be about me,” Shelly pleaded with me during our time together. But how can it not be, when the woman I met on Dr. Martin Luther King Day is one who is dedicated to making so many other people’s dreams come true. Shelly is an example for us all.
I asked Shelly if she had gained anything that she didn’t expect from the experience of creating this unique bakery. This once marathon runner didn’t hesitate with a chuckle to answer, “Yes, twenty pounds.” Her sense of humor and joy in her work is contagious.
Shelly, do you know how much hope you are giving countless parents when they first hear the diagnosis of Autism or any word associated with a disability? You take away their fear of the future. You are proof that there are people in this world who look beyond “the label” of the disability and accept people for "exactly the way they’re supposed to be."
Watch this video of these amazing young men and women.
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