Left: Betsy Farmer, executive director of Promise in Brevard Middle: Matt Strobel prepares the café’s treats. Right: Michaela Koh enters data at her work station.

Discover the Gems at Promise Treasures

The majority of society has the opportunity to find a job, but career options for those with special needs are limited. For Besty Farmer, this realization became clear when her son, Luke, who has Down syndrome, came to an age where he was able to enter the workforce.

With Luke’s desire to have a job and to gain independence growing, Betsy saw a need and thus started Promise in Brevard. This nonprofit provides housing options, vocational training, and employment for young adults with special needs.

One way Promise in Brevard provides employment is through the Promise Treasures thrift shop located in Melbourne. For some of the young adults, also known as “Promisers,” this may be their first real job with a real paycheck, and for others, they may have some previous work experience.

“ Many of us take jobs for granted, but these jobs make a world of difference for these young adults and their families. They are thriving,” said Besty.

Betsy Farmer, executive director of Promise in Brevard.

Betsy Farmer, executive director of Promise in Brevard.

Michaela Koh, 35, previously worked as a transcriptionist but was let go and out of work for about a year. She started working at Promise Treasures in November 2013 and does a little bit of everything there including data entry.

“Michaela has Aperger’s/autism and can be socially awkward at times, but since she started working there, her social skills have advanced. She’s learned how to interact and make eye contact with people,” said Judy Koh, Michaela’s mom.

Throughout the week, Michaela will tell jokes to the store’s customers and they look forward to hearing the joke of the day. She recently authored a 25-page joke book that is now sold at the store. “Telling jokes is an easy way for Michaela to interact with others. It’s a nice ice breaker,” expressed Judy.

Inside Promise Treasures is a café serving coffee and cookies, free of charge to customers. Three days a week, Promiser Matt Strobel prepares the cookies. At 7 years old, Matt, who is now 30, had a cancerous brain tumor leaving him blind.

“I’ve always hoped that Matt would feel good about himself, and his job at Promise Treasures helps because it allows him to feel like he is contributing,” said Pam Strobel, Matt’s mom.

Matt also helps make the gluten-free dog treats sold at the store, but more than anything, he loves talking to people. “He has a set routine, but he will stop what he is doing to engage and interact with anyone who stops by. He is happy and he loves being social,” said Pam.

By shopping and donating gently used items including furniture, Promise Treasures can continue to provide employment to these young adults. All items donated are cleaned and the clothes are laundered before they are available for sale.

The Florida Housing Finance Board of Directors awarded Promise in Brevard $15.8 million in December 2014 to build Promise, a much needed housing choice for cherished family members with special needs.

Promise Treasures is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Promise Treasures, Metro West Shopping Plaza
3040 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne  |  (321) 536-1666

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of SpaceCoast Living.
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