LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WATE) All it took was one customer visiting Riverside Coffee Shop to post on Facebook the challenges the business has faced due to the pandemic. The coffee shop employs those with special needs and now the community is rallying behind them with their support to help keep them open.

Riverside Coffee Shop in Lenoir City provides more than just coffee and pastries to customers: It also provides the opportunity for those with special needs to work in an environment created for them.

“They need to have a place, they need to have a job, they need to have a life just like us because they’re not different from us,” Faith Lee, the manager at the shop said.

Her mother started the business in the middle of the pandemic. The idea came about with Tristan in mind, Faith’s brother who has down syndrome. 

“It looked like the jobs for him just weren’t really available and just had so much potential to be a little superstar, so my mom wanted to find something for him,” Lee said.

Now he and many others have a place to work and grow; for one of those workers, Lilly, she enjoys the time she gets to spend at Riverside.

“It’s a lot of fun because we get to make drinks and serve a lot of food, but also not only that, make orders and all sorts of other things,” she said.

Lilly’s mom gets to work by her daughter’s side and says it’s great to see what this coffee shop has been able to offer not only her daughter but all of the other employees.

“It makes me want to cry it’s just wonderful,” Elisa Calleiro said. “We don’t have things like this in our community. Our special needs group that works here has just been growing and thriving and doing great in their jobs.”

Those at Riverside hope to keep their doors open for years to come for those who need them most.

“They’re among us, they’re working with us,” Lee said. “It’s no longer a second thought, or even like a ‘oh are we sure we should be doing this?’ It’s almost like immediately yes, please come in, we’ve got a place for you.”

If you would like to learn more about what the Riverside Coffee shop has to offer, you can visit their website or Facebook page.