Breaking Grounds Coffee & Cafe

When parents of children with special needs talk with increasing levels of anxiety about “falling off the cliff,” Brandi Fishman knows exactly what they mean. In most states, when an adult with special needs turns 21, they lose access to most of the programs and services that have supported them through their lives, which can include everything from academic support to social skills coaching and vocational resources. In today’s society, there are not nearly as many resources available to adults with developmental disabilities as there are for children.

Personally vested and dedicated to improving the world around her, as Fishman became more involved with her daughter Zoey’s education she met other families trying to navigate through the special education system. Parents can see the approaching cliff, but can struggle to find options. 

“I was disappointed by the offering of adult services,” Fishman said, calling the lack of options a “major disservice.”

In acknowledgement of the multiple obstacles facing the parents of children with special needs Fishman founded the Zefer Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to shift society’s perception of individuals with developmental disabilities by creating new opportunities for inclusion. The Zefer Foundation’s work focuses partly on creating inclusive employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. Located in downtown Mount Holly’s historic Mill Race Village, Breaking Grounds Coffee & Café, the Zefer Foundation’s first business venture, provides inclusion, diversity and opportunity for this community of adults, providing job training and experience, as well as the opportunity advancement and diversification when they excel.

Fishman and the team of exceptional professionals that comprise the Zefer Foundation board work cooperatively toward the vision of a world where everyone has an opportunity for growth and purpose. 


“We stay strong to ensure their success and allow them the opportunity to be happy,” Fishman said 

She goes on to state the complications posed by both negative media and community perception in the battle facing these adults and their families as well as state her hope for a better future through the establishment of a series of Best Practices that can be shared with others and provide continuity of support. 

”We need to come up with what we need for our children to grow into successful adults, to spearhead solutions; their own Best Practices,” Fishman said. “If you allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear, you have no growth.” 

For Fishman’s employees, there’s a lot of room for growth. Lauren Colella’s first job after babysitting was her position at Breaking Grounds, and she has since become so successful in her role that she has been promoted to manager.

“It’s fun to be involved, but it’s also a lot of work – you have to make sure things get done,” Colella said. “But this is a great work environment, there’s no yelling, you feel welcome and it’s not bad if you make a mistake.”

The best part about Breaking Grounds for Colella is becoming friendly with regular customers and fellow employees. It’s clear that Fishman’s vision of building a community founded on mutual support is being realized.

“Anybody and anyone can find a place here, regardless of their challenges or disability,” Colella continued.

We are thrilled to have met Brandi and her team at The Zefer Foundation. Breaking Grounds is helping to build a community of mutual support for adults with developmental disabilities; something that is greatly needed. In the future, the Zefer Foundation hopes to offer recreation and housing programs for adults who have special needs. We expect great things!

Coffee heart.jpg
Lori Sacalis