Two Charlottesville restaurants are launching a campaign to create new opportunities for adults at the Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA). Petit Pois Restaurant and Fleurie Restaurant will donate $1 from every dinner and lunch served between December 1 and December 31 to VIA’s post-high school program and VIAbility Adult Services.
The goal is to raise $3,500 towards an outdoor classroom and microenterprise for post-high school students and adults diagnosed with autism. “An outdoor classroom with a greenhouse would give us the ability to grow vegetables, spices and flowers, and create high quality products that could be sold at local farmer’s markets and restaurants,” said Matthew Osborne, VIA’s Director of Adult Services.
Right now, VIA’s young adult students and VIAbility adult consumers work for businesses and organizations in the community, including Dunkin’ Donuts, the James Madison Regional Library, Bel Air Farm and Meals on Wheels. An on-site microenterprise would teach students life skills and job skills in VIA’s backyard, helping prepare them for jobs in the community and giving them an opportunity to take initiative.
“Our goal is to target and strengthen meaningful and valuable vocational skills that can be later applied to competitive employment opportunities for our students and adults,” said Osborne.
Petit Pois Restaurant and Fleurie Restaurant supported the Virginia Institute of Autism through Charlottesville Restaurant Week in February, 2013. Brian Helleberg, owner of Petit Pois and Fleurie, says he was inspired by Restaurant Week’s impact in helping build VIA’s new adaptive playground. He hopes an outdoor classroom will make a similar difference to the VIA community.
“I don’t think there’s too many things you can do with your time more valuable than planting and nurturing, sticking your hands in the soil, and watching that growth process,” said Helleberg.
He says he hopes the community will support Petit Pois Restaurant and Fleurie Restaurant as they work towards a beautiful new learning space for the Virginia Institute of Autism.
“It’s an ambitious goal but if we can reach it, this will be one of the most substantial accomplishments in our restaurants’ history,” said Helleberg.
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