If you give Northern Virginia residents a chocolate shop, they’ll want coffee to go with it. And if you give them coffee, they’ll want muffins, too. And if you give them breakfast baked goods, they’ll want quiches and sandwiches for lunch as well.

That’s partially how Fairfax got Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates.

Twenty-four-year-old Cameron Graham is a graduate of the first class of the Northern Virginia branch of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes’ MOST program. MOST, which stands for Meaningful Opportunities for Successful Transitions, is “a one year individualized program of activities and training designed to facilitate successful transition into the adult community” for 18- to 24-year-olds with disabilities after they have aged out of state and government programs. The program first opened in Rockville, MD, in July 2008, and a second branch opened in Fairfax in November 2011.

A peek into the Cameron's Coffee and Chocolates kitchen where all the magic happens.

A peek into the Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates kitchen where all the magic happens.

The MOST program accepts participants on a rolling basis and is capped at 15 at a time. It focuses on three areas: self-sufficiency, community inclusion and vocational planning. Each participant then establishes goals in each area that are applicable to his/her own needs and desires. For some participants, goals may include learning how to shave and get dressed in the morning, taking public transportation or doing a specific task for a job they have or want.

In Cameron’s case, her plan for the program focused on opening a food business. She had worked for a catering company after high school, and her parents, Ellen and Jim, seeing how much she loved cooking, were inspired to launch a food business that would offer her, and her peers, meaningful employment opportunities and independence.

They explored several existing businesses that employ individuals with intellectual disabilities. After training at one such business, Chilmark Chocolates in Martha’s Vineyard, they settled on chocolate.

But as mice and cookies, or moose and muffins, go, it wasn’t long before they were expanding into coffee, baked goods and lunchtime offerings. And Jim and Ellen weren’t going to stop there either—their business, which opened in October 2013 around the corner from the MOST VA site, is, in fact, a nonprofit (called Every1 Can Work). Along with Cameron, it employs several other individuals with intellectual disabilities as well as two job coaches who provide real-life training skills. Workers with and without disabilities work side-by-side.

Take-home treats containing nonpareils and chocolate-dipped caramels from Cameron's Coffee and Chocolates.

Take-home treats containing nonpareils and chocolate-dipped caramels from Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates.

The result of Jim and Ellen’s efforts and donations in the form of nonprofit tax filing, interior design and web design services, to name a few, is a charming space with lavender walls and pink, green and silver accents.

A display case full of hand-dipped chocolates and baked goods that are made fresh daily (with end-of-the-day leftovers donated to a nearby homeless shelter) greets you, while the walls are lined with take-home treats, like bags of coffee and little packages of chocolate-dipped marshmallows and nonpareils tied with a card that reads the name of one of the employees who made them. The chocolate offerings change regularly, but they often include chocolate-dipped salted caramels, Buckeyes and truffles with accents like strawberry, coffee and even chili.

Behind the display case and the coffee machine is the (impeccably clean!) kitchen where all of the magic happens. Two vats keep chocolate—dark and milk—tempered and warm for dipping, and the employees gather around the table in the middle to portion out cookie dough, frost cupcakes or roll truffles, depending on the daily tasks. In addition to what is sold in house, they sell online and create custom orders for parties, weddings, businesses and the like.

No matter what you choose, the results are sweet: both for Cameron and the team members, all of whom love their jobs, and, of course, for your taste buds.

Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates, 703-278-2627, 9639 Fairfax Boulevard, Fairfax, VA, Monday–Friday, 7 am–5 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8 am–5 pm.

Top photo: Inside Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates in Fairfax, VA.