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NJ nonprofit hires disabled employees to make tasty snacks

PISCATAWAY — There’s a very profitable non-profit within the Middlesex County township that was established in 2016 to create profession alternatives for the disabled neighborhood.

How did Popcorn for the Individuals begin?

It’s known as Popcorn for the Individuals and the concept got here to founder Dr. Steven Bier when his son, Samuel, who’s on the autism spectrum was solely in a position to get a job pushing purchasing carts at an area grocery store.

On a sizzling, summer season day, Bier stated Samuel went to work and forgot to placed on sunscreen and he got here residence “burnt as a lobster.”

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

It was Bier’s spouse, Barbie Zimmerman-Bier, a developmental pediatrician who has devoted her life to diagnosing and treating youngsters with developmental disabilities, who turned so upset over Samuel’s sunburn, that she instructed her husband to “exit and begin a enterprise for his or her They’re.”

So, he obtained a guide about companies on the market within the neighborhood and the very first enterprise to look on the prime of the web page was a popcorn stand on the market, Bier stated.

“I believed, hey, popcorn. Everyone loves popcorn. That is seasonal. It cuts by way of all socioeconomic limitations. Everyone likes it. So, we began a popcorn stand,” Bier stated.

That stand then ballooned into Popcorn for the Individuals.

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

What’s the aim?

The aim is to create unemployment for the disabled neighborhood. Bier stated there may be a minimum of a 90% unemployment price within the autism neighborhood.

“We discover these youngsters who’re unemployed, a lot of them have by no means labored earlier than, or possibly they’ve one part-time job which may be that fulfilling,” Bier stated. So, Popcorn for the Individuals is designed to create significant, sustainable employment for this neighborhood of individuals.

Bier stated there are about 80 employees who’re on the autism spectrum at Popcorn for the Individuals, together with his son, Samuel.

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

What are the roles?

There’s a job for everybody, relying on skill, beginning with the popcorn baggage.

Some employees who’re low-functioning will merely spend their days placing taste stickers on the baggage.

Others cook dinner the popcorn and the flavorists taste the popcorn. Bier stated every part is finished by hand at this firm. There may be minimal automation.

For instance, when the new cookies n’ cream popcorn comes out of the cooker, employees soften white chocolate, pour that chocolate over the popcorn, then put Oreos in a bag, smash the Oreos with a hammer, and unfold the cookies all around the chocolate on the popcorn.

The popcorn will get bagged and shipped out to locations round New Jersey and New York.

Bier stated there’s one other team of workers that may go along with the popcorn to a Rutgers soccer or basketball sport, the place they’ll arrange a tent, hand out samples, and interact with the crowds.

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

What sort of popcorn flavors does the non-profit make?

Popcorn for the Individuals makes about 11 flavors of popcorn. Cookies n’ Cream might be the preferred taste, Bier stated.

“We additionally make a darkish chocolate espresso. The youngsters soften Belgian darkish chocolate over the popcorn and so they infuse Bustello espresso into it,” Bier stated.

One other large vendor is sweet old school butter. Nonetheless, at this firm, they use actual cream. There may be nothing synthetic, he added.

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Old school caramel corn is a fan favourite. Then there’s a Chicago-baked cheddar. It is a actual, thick cheese flavoring that will get baked into the popcorn.

Final 12 months, Popcorn for the Individuals made greater than 200,000 baggage of popcorn and on-line gross sales proceed to be an enormous hit throughout the nation, Bier stated.

100% of the cash made goes proper again into the corporate.

“We simply hold hiring and hiring. We began with one employee, my son, and now we’ve got over 80,” Bier stated.

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

What’s the thrilling information for 2023?

Bier stated he is tremendous excited to announce work has begun at Lincoln Monetary Area, residence of the Philadelphia Eagles soccer crew for a popcorn manufacturing facility and processing middle inside the stadium for Popcorn for the Individuals

“There will probably be nothing like that on all the planet,” Bier stated.

Hopefully, the manufacturing facility will probably be up and working inside just a few months, and people with autism who’re able to going to the stadium and dealing, will achieve this, he stated.

To order popcorn or should you or somebody you recognize with autism is searching for a job, go to right here.

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

Popcorn for the Individuals (Picture Credit score: Popcorn for the Individuals)

By working at Popcorn for the Individuals, individuals with disabilities could make some cash, have some duty, make some pals, and have a way of belonging.

Bier stated it is all about normalcy at Popcorn for the Individuals. It is a common office with regular complaints, regular considerations, and regular enjoyable.

It makes Bier really feel good to know that these individuals take pleasure in coming to work daily with a way of goal.

In any other case, they only could also be residence enjoying video video games.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You’ll be able to attain her de ella at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

Click on right here to contact an editor about suggestions or a correction for this story.

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