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Fig at Courtney's House serves food, lifts spirits of locals wit - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Fig at Courtney's House serves food, lifts spirits of locals with disabilities

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The restaurant business is a tough one. Add to that the mission of training staff members with developmental disabilities and some might think the odds of success are so long, no one would attempt it. But the people behind Fig at Courtney's House have done both and their breakfast-and-lunch hotspot has carved out a spot in the heart of Templeton.

It's about as peaceful a setting as you can possibly imagine with a hive of activity inside. Carrie Sanders founded Courtney's House as a place where her autistic daughter and other adults with disabilities could gather for social activities. Last year, she enlisted local restaurateur Chris Dillow to transform the picturesque Victorian home into a bistro.

"The plan happened so fast," says Dillow, shaking her head. "Carrie and I met last year and we were open within a couple months."

"The main goal is to help these young adults be a part of our community," says Sanders, referencing nearly a dozen adults busy at work inside the restaurant. "We want them to feel included and valued for the skills they have."

Brenden Walsh is one of the dozen or so people now learning food preparation.

"I've learned how to chop and cut vegetables. They're proud of my work, proud of what I do here."

I watch him as he methodically slices a large red tomato. "I like being here, too," he says with a smile. "I feel like I'm making progress. I think I could eventually work in another restaurant."

"It's a great place to have coffee," explains Leslie Madruga. She's a hostess, greeting people at the door. "I learn here that you can accomplish anything with your life and my life has been growing awesomely."

"We're offering more than I really thought we could," Sanders says as she looks around the handsomely decorated dining room. "This has the chance to become bigger than I ever even dreamed and..." she pauses, as the tears well up. "I get a little emotional about it because they just are such special individuals and I just want the whole community to know that and this is a way for that to happen."

Leslie Madruga says working at Fig has changed her life. "All these people are just great friends to me and even Chris Dillow is really... I love her to pieces."

"There is no 'kitchen' and 'front.' There's no 'us' or 'them.' It's just a very inclusive environment and I think we're doing wonderful things."

Fig at Courtney's House is a non-profit, so they accept donations but they'd just as soon see you stop by for coffee and a piece of pie or breakfast. But call ahead because the line can get long.

For more information about "Fig at Courtney's House" in Templeton, click here.

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