At 47, Lynn Gregoli has her first job.
"I like working here, " says Gregoli.
She spends six hours a week at the Beans and Leaves Cafe on Staten Island's North Shore busing tables and washing dishes, earning a paycheck that she happily spends on visiting her mother in New Jersey and getting her nails done.
"I like red, I like blue, I like orange," she says.
Beans and Leaves is one of more than a dozen Staten Island businesses that employ special needs adults through an advocacy agency called On Your Mark.
A counselor shadows Lynn during her shifts to help her master her job. The goal is for Lynn, who has Down's Syndrome, to eventually work on her own, says Natalie Barback from On Your Mark, a local not-for-profit working with adults with developmental disabilities.
"Lynn is very independent. She does most of her tasks completely independently. Like I said, I just think sometimes, she just needs a little encouragement," Barback said.
Lynn had been working behind the counter at a cafe run by people for special needs for several years.
She felt like she mastered her skills and wanted to try a job in "the real world."
She found her job, at Beans and Leaves, by herself.
"I think it's important for everyone to have a sense of their contribution to the community. And I really feel that employment does that for all of us," Barback said. "We all want to take pride in what we do, and to see somebody achieve that that maybe had a challenge or two along the way is really what makes what we do so rewarding."
On Your Mark runs many programs designed to give special needs adults the skills they need to survive on their own, like job training, independent living and social skills.
For Lynn, the program has given her freedom.
"I like the job," she says.
When she's not sweeping, clearing tables or refilling condiments, Lynn mingles with the coffee shop's customers, the part of her work day she says is her favorite.