Gabi Angelini saved up all of her birthday and holiday money for her one-day dream restaurant. Now hundreds want to help her dream come true.
Angelini and her mother, Mary, started a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $42,000 for Gabi's Grounds, a coffee shop aimed at giving jobs to people with disabilities. Gabi, 20, has Down syndrome and will graduate from high school in a couple of months.
The Angelinis started their GoFundMe campaign in December, quickly collecting around $2,000, but eventually losing steam. Then more recently, a friend of Gabi's filmed a promo video that caught the attention of GoFundMe's marketing team, who filmed filmed a video of their own.
After it was released last week, the Gabi's Grounds campaign has gone viral, thanks to Gabi's ambitions and charm seen in the video.
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"It's like having another family," Mary Angelini said of the flood of money and support. "I read the messages to Gabi at night, people saying she's their hero and that they're behind us. People are donating in honor of someone with Down syndrome, or someone who has died. It's incredible."
Gabi works part time at a Raleigh grocery store, but has been turned down for extra hours. When she went through the interview process to work at a local gym and its smoothie bar, she was ultimately turned down.
"She was really heartbroken both times, and I thought, 'I'm not going to put her through this again,'" Mary said.
That's when Gabi and Mary started thinking about a place of their own.
"We've just been praying for God to blow our minds," Mary Angelini said. "She's wanted a restaurant. I said Gabi I don't know if I can do a restaurant, but how about a coffee shop."
Mary Angelini said they found inspiration in Bitty and Beau, a Wilmington coffee shop that has gained national attention for hiring employees with mental and physical disabilities. Their founder was named CNN's Hero of the Year in 2017, and they've added a second shop in Charleston, S.C.
"Once they added the second one in Charleston, I thought, 'OK, that's far enough away, we won't impact them,'" Mary Angelini said.
After meeting their $40,000 goal, they have bumped it up to $60,000, expecting to need around $200,000 to open the shop. No location has been selected, but Gabi sells her own "Gabi's Grounds" blend from Triangle-based Larry's Beans at gabisgrounds.com.
Mary said that Gabi only drinks decaf, which she carries in her online store.
A coffee shop, Mary said, could help break down barriers in the way people treat those with disabilities.
"It's a friendly place, a place where people wouldn't feel intimidated to meet people with disabilities," Mary said. "It gives people the opportunity to get to know people with disabilities. But it's just a cup of coffee, if they don't want to hang out, they can take it to go."
For more on the campaign, go to gofundme.com/gabis-grounds-coffee-shop.