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Cody café providing work experience for adults with disabilities

Cody cafe providing work experience for adults with disabilities
Posted at 6:01 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 20:01:14-05

CODY — The Pardners Café in Cody is not like any other in the town, or the state for that matter— many of the staff are adults with disabilities.

Colleen Vanaman, 40, is just one of the nine adults with disabilities, known as Pardners, working at the café in the Park County Library.

“It shows that we can do stuff in the community. Adults with disabilities can have a job in the community,” Vanaman said Wednesday.

The afternoon was just another busy lunch rush for the Pardners while they completed their tasks of taking orders, working in the kitchen, bringing food to customers and cleaning tables. They work side-by-side with volunteer mentors.

“Our café is the best. We have the best service, the best food. The best mentors, bosses,” said another Pardner, Jana Conklin, 49.

The café aims to provide social and vocational experiences for the Pardners, and the mind behind it all is Kathy Liscum. Her inspiration came from her adult son with disabilities, Collin, and a similar program in Texas.

“My son is now 22, but when he was about 18, 19 we started really thinking, 'okay, what’s going to happen when he’s finished with school?'” Liscum said.

So, with the help of supporters and parents like herself, she created the Cody Pardners, a nonprofit aiming to help the quality of life for adults with disabilities. The café is their first big effort, but there’s more in the works. They hope to open another space focused more on helping small businesses with tasks such as labeling, stamping, filing and shredding.

“I want people to understand that everybody has value. That everybody has something to offer and giving people the opportunity to work is huge,” Liscum said.

The Pardners said their favorite part about working is the friends they've made, and they referred to themselves as more of a family rather than co-workers.

Vanaman said she didn't think an opportunity like the café would ever present itself, but she is grateful it did.

“I like going to work. Anything that gets me out of the house, so I’m not lazy is a godsend,” she said.

Liscum said it's not just about the tasty food and fun atmosphere, either. The Pardners have made great growth in the 11 months they've been working.

“You hear the stories from the parents about things like, gosh he just wants to jump out of bed now. I mean, I used to have to drag him out, but he wants to get up and he wants to go to work,” Liscum said.