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‘BaRISEtas’ and buddies brew coffee for community


"Creating an environment for them to shine is important because sometimes when you're different, it's easier to just be in the background," said Mrs. DeWard.


RISE Coffee & Tea enables young adults with special needs to shine. They work as baRISEtas alongside their buddies to serve local customers.

Inspired by her oldest daughter, Bekah, who has special needs, Mrs. Nicole DeWard opened her dream coffee shop, RISE Coffee & Tea, with her family on April 24, 2020. Located on Highway 92 next to SHINE Health and Wellness, the shop initially limited their business to the drive-through because of COVID-19, and then finally opened for in-person dining in June.

“Our mission is to help people shine their light brighter in the world,” said Mrs. DeWard. “Giving them opportunities to do things, and to do them well, helps them to shine their light. I believe that the light is in them. Creating an environment for them to shine is important because sometimes when you’re different, it’s easier to just be in the background.”

BaRISEtas usually work two-hour shifts a couple times each week. The shop currently employs about 30 team members and encourages its community with the motto, “If you're going to rise, you might as well shine.”

Carolyn Prunkl works at the shop as a baRISEta. Her mother, Mrs. Lisa Prunkl, has seen her flourish at the new job.

“Working here has really brought her confidence out,” said Mrs. Prunkl. “She’s so excited and motivated to come to work. It’s really a family, and it gives her such a great sense of purpose.”

Junior Gavin Lucas has been serving as a buddy since the shop opened. He has learned how to make cappuccinos and lattes while also developing patience.

“I like working here because I like to help people and see others succeed,” said Lucas. “It makes me feel happy to see them happy at their job. These people are just like us. We’re all just working together.”

Robbie Corner works as a buddy with his brother, Bryan. Corner enjoys socializing with his co-workers and getting to know the returning customers by name. He appreciates the uplifting work environment.

“Nicole is an awesome boss,” said Corner. “She’s very supportive and wants everybody who works for her to grow to their highest potential. I’ve never had a boss like that, so this has been really cool.”

When they are not serving customers or doing other chores, the team members bake breakfast items, such as coffee cakes, bacon-wrapped eggs and dark chocolate keto donuts. Mrs. DeWard, a master trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, personally oversees the menu.

“All of our case food and breakfast foods follow a certain nutritional profile,” said Mrs. DeWard. “It is important to me to share with the world about how you can eat things that are healthy and taste great.”

Mrs. DeWard hopes to see the business grow exponentially in the new year. She is looking for ways to increase marketing to grow their family of customers, so baRISEtas and buddies have more opportunities to serve.

“We’re just glad to have a good, local coffee shop that supports the community and helps those with special needs by giving them opportunities,” said Mrs. Sheri Quali, a returning customer. “It’s run by a great Christian family, so it has great community values.”

RISE employees demonstrate these values by cheerfully serving their customers.

“It brings so much hope and happiness to people who come in because they get such a warm welcome, the coffee is delicious and they get an opportunity to see these young adults being successful,” said Mrs. Prunkl.

RISE Coffee & Tea is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm and on Saturdays from nine to two. For more information, visit


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