Burlington coffee shop worries COVID-19 will end its mission to employ disabled


BURLINGTON, VT – Like many small businesses, Perky Planet in downtown Burlington is concnered what the COVID-19 pandemic will mean for its future — and its mission to give people with intellectual disabilities meaningful and competitively paid employment.

The pandemic has forced Perky Planet to shut down, hurting employees like Ian Macleod, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2009. He said it was hard to find a secure job after his injury.

“I didn’t feel accepted pretty much at other places and then at Perky Planet, I felt accepted,” said Macleod.

Owner Richard Vaughn said the virus is is not the first time his business has faced an issue out of its control. After opening, a construction project closed St. Paul Street, where the café is located, for months.

“The first ten and a half months we were cut off by the community because of road construction and fences and broken sidewalks,” he said.

However, the coronavirus poses a different challenge, especially for his employees. He said Perky Planet will need help from the community to keep them working.

“The majority of them are immune compromised. Our folks with genetic differences just by the very nature of their condition are compromised,” said Vaughn.

Macleod and his co-workers worry about the shop’s future. But he’s also worried about losing what Perky Planet stands for.

“We have a social mission we’re not just a cafe or another place selling coffee,” said Macleod.

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