Downsize Jobs expands its services with new activities

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URBANA, Ohio – Although its roots are in the open fields outside of Woodstock, Ohio, Downsize Farm will take another big step by strengthening its footprint in Urbana. Bobbi McKee, director of business development for the organization, opens a new store in Urbana Square.

The spotted owl should not only serve the growing downtown corridor, but also serve as a new opportunity to expand Downsize Farm’s mission to help adults with developmental disabilities put their skills into practice.


What do you want to know

  • Downsize Farm and Downsize Jobs provide day programs and job training for adults with developmental disabilities
  • The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice as high as for people without.
  • The spotted owl will provide new job opportunities for Downsize customers
  • The new store will open in the spring

McKee helps Downsize Farm customers take care of animals

Downsize Farm began in 2007 as a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. McKee’s brothers, Eric and Levi, were born with Down syndrome, so his family wanted to create a place to help them contribute, grow and fulfill their potential. They started looking at their farm as a potential solution.

Soon it grew into a full-scale day center, providing adults with disabilities from Champaign County and beyond the opportunity to care for and work with small animals like chickens, goats, and donkeys.

“It was basically my parents’ vision — they wanted a place where you learn while doing,” McKee said.

Eventually, the program grew to provide more opportunities to learn marketable skills and lead clients down the career path through Downsize Jobs. This is where McKee’s first venture came in.

The Spotted Cow Coffeehouse, opened in Urbana in 2014 in the Downsize Jobs building, offers guests the opportunity to put their skills to the test in a commercial kitchen and service environment.

McKee mixes a Latte with Spotted Cow

“I thought it would be a really good catalyst for people with disabilities,” McKee said.

Half of the staff at Spotted Cow are adults with disabilities, while others who thrive in the restaurant environment are often placed in similar businesses around Urbana. His brothers also got their start at the cafe.

“We have a way of finding strengths for everyone, and not everyone is supposed to do everything, but everyone can do something,” McKee said.

Across the country, the placement of adults with disabilities lags far behind that of able-bodied and neurotypical people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for adults with disabilities is twice that of others. Meanwhile, although the nationwide unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, the disability rate remains at least 2% higher than it was in 2019. That is why McKee said places like Downsize are so important. Almost every client she sees is able to work and contribute in some way to their community.

She cited longtime client John Dundon as a prime example. He’s worked with Downsize for a few years and with their help he’s been able to manage his schedule by traveling to and from Urbana independently, become a regular at the local library, and earn and keep a job at Burger King.

“I just like to stay busy,” he said.

As for McKee’s new venture, she said emerging from the pandemic, Downsize and the Spotted Cow had just seen an influx of support. It was a good time to find a way to keep the momentum going.

“We just wanted this mission to continue,” she said. “I don’t want to grow just to grow, but it has to be with this full mission to make a difference.”

The Spotted Owl will operate as a take-out sandwich cafe during the day, but at night it will cater to the local nightlife, serving alcohol and opening up as a gathering space for late-night conversations.

McKee shows space to new business Spotted Owl

Like his counterpart elsewhere in Urbana, McKee said half the staff will also be adults with disabilities with additional opportunities for Downsize customers to contribute.

“Downsizing is actually going to box those sandwiches so they can earn extra pay that way,” she said.

McKee said she was working on installing electric and water services, but expects the business to open by late spring.

During this time, she said she was proud to see how Downsize had grown and looked forward to creating a new way for her parents’ organization to serve its community.

“Downsize Farm has never been the place where we sit and color coloring books and watch TV all day. It’s meant to be somewhere where you go and do something fun and meaningful.”

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