Md. Mother Opens Smoothie Shop That Offers Jobs, Internships To People With Special Needs

In a heartwarming tale of determination and inclusivity, a Maryland mother named Monique Sotomarino took it upon herself to create a haven for children with special needs. Recognizing the lack of safe and accepting spaces for her own kids, who have special needs, she founded That Smoothie Place—an extraordinary establishment that goes beyond being just a regular smoothie shop. It's a sanctuary where individuals of all abilities can feel secure, valued, and embraced. Sotomarino, a mother of three, discovered that Fragile X, a genetic condition and the leading inherited cause of autism, affected her family when she was seven months pregnant with her third child. Now, her twins are 19 years old, and her third child is nearly 17. She speaks proudly of her children, highlighting their genuine ability to see people for who they are, not for their titles or positions. Recognizing the absence of inclusive and accepting spaces for individuals with special needs in Maryland, Sotomarino embarked on a mission to provide her children and others with a place to thrive, be themselves, and feel welcomed. Located in Damascus, Sotomarino's business collaborates with Montgomery County Public Schools to offer internships and job opportunities to individuals with special needs. It was essential for her to create a space that catered to individuals of all abilities, ensuring everyone had an opportunity to be part of That Smoothie Place. While customers may experience slightly longer wait times for their smoothies, Sotomarino has thoughtfully provided entertainment at each table, ensuring a pleasant and engaging experience for all. Sotomarino's vision extends beyond her local community. She hopes to expand That Smoothie Place to other cities, forging partnerships with school districts across the nation. Her goal is to create a network of inclusive establishments that provide individuals with special needs the opportunity to explore the workforce and showcase their capabilities. She firmly believes that we can all learn from one another, regardless of our abilities, and that every interaction presents a valuable learning experience. Through her unwavering dedication and determination, Monique Sotomarino has crafted a space that challenges societal norms and promotes the inclusion of individuals with special needs. That Smoothie Place not only satisfies the palate but also nourishes the spirit, fostering an environment where acceptance, understanding, and growth flourish. Sotomarino's remarkable initiative serves as an inspiration to communities far and wide, reminding us of the immense potential for positive change when we prioritize inclusivity and embrace the unique abilities of every individual.

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