Shelly's Soda and Snacks

Snacks job for woman with disabilities

By LAUREN BEYER, Rural Institute Project Assistant

Shelley's three loves of life

Shelley is a 21-year-old young woman who lives in Missoula, Mont.

She pursues an active life filled with meaningful relationships, recreation and a path toward employment.

Shelley was featured as an emerging leader by the Rural Institute of Montana when she was a junior in high school. Much has changed since then. She has matured beyond prom queen and water coordinator for the high school basketball team and started her own business. The road to this point has not always been easy, though.

Shelley’s main advocate and cheerleader is her mother, Kelly. When Shelley graduated from Frenchtown High School, Kelly reached out to Montana Vocational Rehabilitation to talk about her employment future. Instead of receiving encouragement, Kelly was told her daughter was unemployable. Shelley is a person with Down syndrome and brittle diabetes. However, Kelly knows these conditions should not prevent Shelley from working. Shelley was given a trial position at Famous Dave’s barbecue restaurant in Missoula where she was hired to clean tables and mop. The manager refused to hire her, saying she did not move quickly enough.

Kelly decided to create an employment plan herself. Shelley has always loved soda (especially diet orange), dollar bills and Cheetos. These are what the family calls Shelley’s “three loves of life.” Kelly incorporated these passions into Shelley’s plan, running a vending machine business. She then began applying for grants, and she was successful. Vocational Rehabilitation contributed to the venture.

Today, Shelley owns and operates two vending machines in Missoula, and she has plans to expand. If you live in Missoula or pass through, make sure to visit Shelley’s machines. One is located at the Radio Central Building at 127 E. Main St., and the other is at Missoula’s Child Development Center at 3335 Lt Moss Rd. She hopes to have three machines soon. She also operates a system of honor boxes, where people are trusted to pay for their snacks. Follow her business on Facebook at Shelley’s Sodas and Snacks.

Shelley’s duties include shopping for the snacks and soda, stocking the machines and collecting the money. Kelly is confident the business will return a profit. Shelley’s business is one of many ways in which Kelly encourages her daughter to meet high expectations. She does not allow Shelley to lounge about the house and sit in front of the television. Shelley is expected to help with housework — she keeps her room clean, vacuums, washes dishes and helps Kelly cook. Kelly holds the same expectations of all her children when they are home. Everyone carries their weight. She knows Shelley is capable of meeting the bar, at whatever height it is set. If expectations are lowered, Shelley, and anyone for that matter, will stoop and grow lazy. Kelly guides her daughter with the attitude of “keep the bar high, she can meet it.”

The complete version of Shelley’s story originally appeared in the Transition & Employment Projects newsletter and is provided to courtesy of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and Children’s Special Health Services at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

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