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Do What You Love, Love What You Do

By Crystal Crowell

One can’t help but smile as they walk through the door at Rise and Nye’s in Sarasota. The fresh smell of coffee and baked goods may bring you in, but employees are what keep people coming back for more.

Kristi Stadler is one of over 35 people employed by Rise and Nye’s. She has been with them since they opened in December 2020. When asked what she loves most about her job Stadler said, “I love everything! I love to help at the register, scoop ice cream, bake beignets, clean, all of it! I just really love my job”. In fact, Stadler loves her job so much that she will be skipping the family’s next camping trip because she doesn’t want to miss work. “Kristi loves camping, and I just can’t believe she doesn’t want to go. That’s how much she loves being at work”, said Stadler’s mom, Joan Stadler.

Stadler currently works three days a week, between three and five hours each shift. “Kristi is always early. She clocks in and out at her exact times. She is a versatile employee, which is great because she can fill in at any position. At one of her former jobs, she was only allowed to clean tables, nothing more. Kristi is so capable. She has built relationships with customers, and they come in when they know she will be here. It’s so great to see,” said co-founder Beaver Shriver.

Stadler said, “Beaver is a godsend. He is wonderful with people and we all love him.” Stadler added, “I love to work because I get to give back to the community and meet people. I also get to save money for vacations.”

Shriver grew up watching his distant relatives create opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities by founding programs such as the Special Olympics and Best Buddies. He knew he wanted to foster an environment with the same feeling of inclusion and opportunity with Rise and Nye’s. “I watched my friend Barry, who has autism, and his friends struggle while we were growing up. Barry found a job and has kept that same job for over 40 years. Many of his friends were unable to do the same. I really wanted a place where we could show everyone that people with a variety of disabilities do, in fact, have many abilities and that they can have a job and be a supporting member of society. When people ask me, how do you do it? How do you hire someone with a disability? I simply say, you just do it.” Shriver said it’s hard not to shed at least one tear each day. “We have families come in and see employees like Kristi that maybe look like their child. It gives them hope. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”

Shriver said they currently have a waiting list of about 200 people eager to work at the coffee shop. They are currently raising funds through their nonprofit, Inclusion Revolution, in hopes of starting a food truck, giving them the ability to hire more people. Stadler and her co-workers are happy to help with this mission. During their slow times, they will draw or paint. The art is then displayed in the coffee shop for purchase. “Kristi sold one of her paintings and was so proud. When a piece is sold, the employee gets $20, and the non-profit gets $5. I gave Kristi her $20 and she gave it right back. She insisted we put it towards the food truck. That’s just the kind of person she is,” said Shriver.

While living in New Jersey, Stadler worked for a college, handling the preparation, service, and cleanup of the salad bar. She would even help her boss cater events. She has always enjoyed working and doesn’t see herself stopping anytime soon. “I really want to become a trainer and help other new people. I want to show them how to do everything I know how to do. I want to be able to save my money and live on my own someday.”

When not busy working at Rise and Nye’s, Stadler enjoys going to Disney and eating at The Boathouse at Disney Springs. She is a Special Olympics athlete and has medaled many times in swimming, one of her favorite activities. Stadler loves spending time with her sister, going shopping and eating out. “I like going camping or doing puzzles or going to dances. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I just really like doing it with my family.” Her mom said, “Kristi is an amazing child and I really enjoy being her mom”.