Although Allison Hamilton loves coffee, the strawberry-banana smoothie is her favorite drink on the robust menu at The Big Bean. The 26-year-old Glen Burnie resident has been happily employed at the Severna Park coffee shop for two years now, with the support of Providence of Maryland.
Established 62 years ago, Providence is a nonprofit organization with a mission “to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to discover and live their best lives in Anne Arundel and Charles counties in Maryland.” Hamilton is one of over 300 people Providence currently supports through services including career services, residential services, community engagement, mental and behavioral health support, and more.
The Big Bean co-owner Greg Coster shared that Hamilton plays a very important role on the coffee shop’s team. “With cafes and restaurants, there is a lot of side work and Allison is a master of helping make sure that our baristas are prepped and set up for success every day, whether it be stocking things, wrapping things, prepping things – any way that she can help them out,” Coster explained. “She is literally like the jack of all trades.”
Hamilton, who is The Big Bean’s second Providence of Maryland recruit, explained that her day-to-day tasks include wrapping pastries, stocking juices, folding apparel for sale, keeping plenty of lids and sleeves on the ready for the baristas, and much more. She enthusiastically shared that she loves her job and her team. Sipping a mango smoothie on a chilly January morning, she stated, “I like my coworkers. They are nice and kind, and they help me out.”
The special relationship she’s built with owners Greg and Christie Coster tops her list of her favorite things about working at The Big Bean. The three joke and jest throughout each shift – Hamilton has affectionately nicknamed Greg “coffee bean” – but Hamilton also lets them know when it’s time to get serious again.
“She’ll say to me, ‘All right Greg, I have to get back to work, stop joking around,’” Coster said, laughing. “She’s got the personality where she’s able to do her work, and do it really well, but adapt to the lighthearted nature that we try to keep here, and for that reason she’s a perfect fit for what we do.”
Hamilton secured her spot on The Big Bean roster with the support of Providence employment consultant Ashley Mundell, who began working with the young coffee lover in 2020. Mundell shared that Hamilton has long worked at home babysitting her nieces and nephews, so when she came to Providence, she was ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work in the job field.
Providence offers the people they serve two approaches to gaining employment. The first, regular supported employment, includes traditional job development, interview skills, job applications and job interviews. The nonprofit’s customized employment approach is more involved and includes meeting the future employee in their home, getting to know their friends and family, becoming familiar with their skills and interests, and supporting them regularly in the workplace. Mundell partnered with Hamilton through regular supported employment, noting that the hardworking young woman was fairly independent from the start.
“She feels at home (at The Big Bean),” Mundell said, echoing what Hamilton expressed about her job. “They’re her second family, they’re very supportive. She can communicate with them about any of her needs, she advocates for herself well, and they are very open when it comes to feedback.”
Over Hamilton’s two years at The Big Bean, which has been fueling Severna Park’s caffeine addiction for over two decades, her role has expanded as she continues to eagerly take on new responsibilities. The next skill she hopes to add to her resume is smoothie making, Coster shared, noting that she’s already learning to make her own blended beverages.
When she’s not at work, Hamilton enjoys listening to music, singing, dancing, watching Disney shows, and babysitting kids.
The Big Bean is just one of 77 local businesses who count on employees like Hamilton whom Providence supports. The 220 Providence staff who come alongside these employees believe that the community is at its best when every person is an engaged contributor, and all are treated with dignity and respect.
Providence Vice President of Community Relations and Development Aimee Bullen said, “We really do meet people where they are. We believe in people. … We see ourselves as working alongside someone to get them what they need to do it on their own, to live their best life.”
Mundell echoed, “We’re not leading them; we’re supporting them on their own path.”
With her varied skills and caring circle of support, there’s no telling where Hamilton’s path may lead her next.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here