Cafe allows adults with Down syndrome to learn career skills

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (WLS) -- Gelato and coffee for a cause: Gigi's Playhouse has a café in Hoffman Estates staffed and run by adults with Down syndrome.

Aubrey Soukup is a volunteer at Hugs & Mugs and one of many eager to great you as soon as you walk in the door.

"The most fun part about being here is just being around people. They are the inspiration. They inspire me every day of my life. They help me to make sure I'm here on time. They help me to make sure I know exactly what I'm doing and doing," she said.

The colorful café has been up and running for just over two years, giving adults with Down syndrome a chance to learn career skills.

"This is where they build their resume, this is where the career skills start, this is where they learn customer service, this is where they have they contact with their customer. They learn how to take care of a customer, they learn the POS system, they learn every aspect of the business. So really it's just a place where they can find where they fit and what type of job they want to look for in the community," said Nancy Gianni, Chief Belief Officer and Gigi's Mom.

With every scoop of gelato and every cup of coffee comes an opportunity to learn but best of all is the love that comes with each handmade mug.

"The hug is a picture of us and it's framed kind of but it's on a piece of paper and it's a picture of like me on there. It says like my favorite things to do, what I've learned, what I've accomplished on it and maybe like one of my goals and that's exactly what we write on there," Aubrey said.

All of the programs at GiGi's Playhouse are free.

For more information on Hugs & Mugs, visit
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