Volunteer Days are being held for the soon-to-be non-profit restaurant in Ridgeland that will serve as a job training facility for those with disabilities.
The Lily Pad is a foundation that started nine years ago as an organization called Running for Lily. In its beginnings, the organization put on an annual event called Run Up for Downs and the proceeds of the fundraiser benefited two non-profits: The Little Lighthouses in Central Mississippi and The Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society. However, the vision shifted as the two families who founded the organization began to think about their children’s future.
Director Kristin Lape and her husband and Board Vice President Brent Lape have a daughter with Down’s Syndrome, and their co-founders, the Elliots, have a son with Down’s Syndrome. Lape said she began asking the community about how to prepare for her child’s future and what to expect for her after high school, although she is currently still in elementary school. The answer was the same from everyone: their child with disabilities tried to get a job, it didn’t work out, and now they are at home losing their life skills and what they learned in school.
“We thought we needed to do something to help the situation out to be better prepared for when our kids were out of high school,” Lape said. “So then we started researching ideas on what we could do and a restaurant seemed to be the best fit for what we wanted to do.”
The goal is for Lily Pad to be a lunch restaurant that will train and employ individuals with disabilities so they can have work experience and get jobs in other businesses around the community. It will be a safe and welcoming place of workforce development to give the individuals life training and skills in the restaurant industry.
“It just came out of wanting to give them the opportunity and help them leap to the next step and opportunity,” Lape said. “That is how we came up with the Lily Pad.”
Using money raised through events over the last few years and funds from last year’s capital campaign, they were able to purchase an existing building located at 111 N Wheatley Street in Ridgeland. The building requires renovations to be transformed into the restaurant and Lily Pad is asking for volunteers to help.
“We’ve been able to pay for renovations but there are some things that would help us cut costs back so we are asking for volunteers to help up with things,” Lape said. “What we can save on our renovation cost will help us be able to put towards the operational cost for the first few months when we open while we are training individuals and we may not have the income coming in.”
Lape said they are looking for volunteers to help with painting, wood and trim work, and sanding. These jobs do not require skilled work, and families can have the opportunity to serve together. While they ask that very young children don’t participate for safety reasons, teenagers and younger children may volunteer with adult supervision and/or a parent or guardian’s signed waiver.
“We just need hands and sweat equity so that is what these opportunities are for,” Lape said. “Anyone who is willing to come help and provide their time during these days is appreciated.”
While anyone can volunteer, Lape said they are also looking for businesses or individuals with trade skills who would be willing to donate their services, specifically with skills of carpentry, tile work, drywall, concert, floor refinishing and landscaping.
Currently, there are volunteer opportunities on November 6 and 13. Lape said more will be added as they move along with the construction process and become more aware of their needs. Those wanting to volunteer their time and services can sign up either on Lily Pad’s Facebook Page or their website at https://thelilypadms.com/volunteer-opportunities/.
“We want this to be a fully community involved project — not just for those with disabilities but the community as a whole to benefit from it,” Lape said. “We want them to see how important it is for those individuals to be accepted and what extra work they have to put in to do the same things they are able to do. The community has been a big support for us.”
Lape said their hope and goal is for renovations to be far enough along in the spring to begin hiring and training to be open by the summer of 2022.