Today, March 21, marks the 8th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day, a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012.
The World Down Syndrome Day Conference is taking place today at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. This year's World Down Syndrome Day Conference is entitled: "Right To Work".
That's a fitting theme for Westminster's Erin Baldwin who was the inspiration for and is a hard working employee of Main Street Westminster's own coffee roastery -- Furnace Hills Coffee.
Baldwin, who is also celebrating her 39th birthday today, has Down Syndrome.
Erin's father, Dave Baldwin, previously told Patch, “Our daughter was living in a home in Wisconsin and things weren’t going the way we thought they should be, so we brought her home.”
Once home, Dave said he knew his adult daughter would need something to do. Baldwin inquired with the state regarding job availability for the developmentally disabled.
“We weren’t able to come up with anything. There was a wait list for jobs for the developmentally disabled,” explained Baldwin. “We said, 'This is not going to work.'”
And so the idea for Furnace Hills Coffee Company came to fruition and according to Dave, Erin works from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., four days a week and Saturday mornings.
Dave said Erin's favorite part of the job is roasting the coffee beans.
"She loves roasting Erin's Breakfast Blend," Dave said. "She refers to it as 'My Breakfast Blend' and has now started calling the roastery 'my shop.'"
Although Dave says it's difficult for Erin to verbalize what it means to have Down Syndrome, he said she is happy.
"She loves who she is and really enjoys her life," Dave said. "She doesn't miss what it would be like to be someone different."
That idea born to give Erin a meaningful work experience has developed beyond what Dave dreamed of for his daughter.
"I am so proud of Erin and what she has accomplished. She lets us know what her thoughts and ideas are for coffee production. She works hard and long hours and thoroughly enjoys it," Dave told Patch. "I never thought she would take to coffee roasting like she has. We started in our kitchen and dining room. We never dreamed we'd be selling to Whole Foods Markets and coffee shops in the area."
Dave said that in May, Furnace Hills will be hiring another person with developmental disabilities.
"We are slowly seeing our dream come true of making Furnace Hills Coffee Company a place where the developmentally disabled have an opportunity for a full, meaningful life and work," Dave said.
From 1979 to 2003, the prevalence of Down syndrome (DS) at birth increased by 31 percent, from 9 to 12 per 10,000 live births in 10 US regions, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Within the 10 regions, birth prevalence of Down Syndrome ranged from a low of 9.7 in Arkansas to a high of 13.7 in Utah during 1997-2003.
"I would say it's a time for those with Down Syndrome to show the world they have a contribution to make and that the world would be less if they were not a part of it," Dave said.
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