Among the beautiful antiques and exciting vintage lifestyle furniture at CNP Treasures on Northfield Avenue in West Orange is a treasure greater than anything sold in the store – an employment opportunity for young adults with Autism and other disabilities.
Having a son on the autism spectrum, local residents and CNP Treasures owners Cheryl and Nathaniel Parris saw the need for people with disabilities to have employment opportunities. Once Mr. Parris retired, the couple decided to combine their love of antiquing and vintage furniture and combine that with their mission to help young adults with disabilities.
“We just said to ourselves, as parents, as community members, as business owners, what could we do?” Cheryl Parris said. “It’s one thing to complain and say ‘hey, the state needs to do more, the systems are broken,’ or can we do something on our own?”
The answer was yes, and CNP Treasures was born.
The family-owned store works in conjunction with JESPY House, a local nonprofit that advances independence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. CNP Treasures has been able to hire six young adults with developmental disabilities or on the autism spectrum through JESPY house.
“We wanted to make it clear that even though our son was on the spectrum of autism, that we were not only going to limit our mission to just individuals on the spectrum of autism, it would be for anyone who had a disability,” Parris said.
A few of the CNP Treasures employees include Arielle, who has learned sales and inventory; Mike, who has taken several roles in shipping and receiving; and Nancy, who does all of the sales calculations and reporting.
CNP Treasures also sponsors two students a month from Nassan’s Place, a local program that provides accessible and affordable educational and recreational programs to children with autism.
Now they’ve even expanded as a state-qualified business to mentor and train young adults with developmental disabilities or on the autism spectrum in all aspects of retail in order to prepare them for the working world and assist in their job searches.
“We’re in the process of setting up classrooms and getting the appropriate coaches in place to start our training program,” Parris said.
The store has also begun hosting Do-It-Yourself classes for anyone in the community who might interested.
“We also want to give individuals opportunities to learn how to be entrepreneurs, so what better way to do that than to offer DIY home improvement classes?” Parris said. “These classes are of course open to the community, anyone can come, it’s completely inclusive and totally accommodating.”
Some of the classes include lampshade making, distress and chalk painting, advanced photo framing and basic furniture restoration.
A limited number of scholarships will be provided based on financial need.
CNP Treasures is also an approved provider with the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and with the local Essex Care Management Organization (CMO) Partnership for Children of Essex County.