Popcorn for the People is a nonprofit organization that provides meaningful employment opportunities for people on the spectrum. Adults on the spectrum tend to have a difficult time finding job opportunities. Within the autism community, the unemployment rate is between 80-90%. As a result of this, Barbie and Steven Bier founded Popcorn for the People, so that their son Sam, as well as other adults and teens who are on the spectrum or have developmental disabilities can learn a wide range of skill sets to better prosper in life. According to Michael,
“The company starts with an individual who has had no work experience, their responsibilities slowly increases based on what they can handle. Employees can work behind the counter, take orders and interact with customers if they are socially comfortable, they can make popcorn on the kettle, and they can handle mail and online orders. The more comfortable the workers get within the positions, the more responsibilities they gain, in addition to being able to help open and close the store. The employees also learn the fundamentals of getting to work and maneuvering public transportation.”
We asked Michael about how his son, Sam, is doing today and what he thinks about the company that his parents created founded on his behalf. Michael said, “This has helped Sam greatly, and it has given him something meaningful to do.” During our interview, Michael was even able to ask Sam what he thought, in which he said, “How lucky i am to be part of a business like this, it’s really more than a business, it is a cause. I am proud of it and it will get even better. It certainly beats bagging at ShopRite.”
Michael stated that his employees “seem very happy, very engaged, and they enjoy the activities as well as the physical work of the job.” Michael also told us that Popcorn for the People offers employee of the month opportunities. “There is no set criteria to attain employee of the month, it is meant to be a feel good thing, when they’re killing it – they get rewarded.”
As of right now, to apply to be a worker at Popcorn for the People, you have to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis or have a developmental disability. The minimum age to work is around mid high school. Teens with autism are usually in high school until the age of 21, so this job opportunity helps to provide meaningful employment today to help them grow and help them through to graduate. Employees can stay with Popcorn for the People for as long as they want, but if they leave to try other things and choose to come back; there will always be an open spot waiting for them.