Downtown Niles coffeehouse to host World Down Syndrome Day fundraiser

Published 11:56 am Monday, March 20, 2023

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NILES — Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day and a local business is set to host a fundraiser to benefit those living with Down Syndrome.

2nd & Main, 127 E. Main St., will be donating 50 percent of its proceeds from food and drink sales and 100 percent of its tips tomorrow to Michiana Down Syndrome, a Down Syndrome non-profit that serves St. Joseph, Marshall, LaPorte, Starke, and Elkhart Counties in Indiana and Cass, St. Joseph, and Berrien Counties in Michigan. The 100 percent volunteer-based organization was formed in the 1980s to help improve the lives of individuals with Down Syndrome and their families through advocacy, education, research, and fellowship.

Owners Lea Germann, Alishia Ransbottom and Dustin Jankoviak have been overwhelmed with support from the community since opening their doors earlier this month and aim to give back by promoting inclusivity and advocacy for those living with Down syndrome.

“We have to start these good habits right away so that it keeps going,” Jankoviak said. “From the very beginning, the community supported us really well. We’ve been busier than we had ever dreamed of so why not do that from the very beginning?”

“Giving back to our communities is very important to us,” Germann said. “These funds will contribute to a cause more important than what we’re doing.”

Germann, who represents Brandywine Community Schools on the Berrien RESA Parent Advisory Committee, said that a fellow committee member is on the Michiana Down Syndrome board and that their relationship inspired her decision to raise funds for the organization.

“A big thing for me is when giving money to charities, you don’t always know where it’s going to,” Germann said. “But these are real kids in our area who were diagnosed with Down Syndrome and live every day just a little more difficult than the life that we live.”

“What’s the point in having a local business if we aren’t gonna love on people well?” Jankoviak said. “We have friends and family that are near and dear to our hearts who are impacted by Down Syndrome. Why not make a big splash and give back in a way that sets an example for other businesses in our area?”

Going forward, Germann, Jankoviak and Ransbottom plan to host at least one fundraiser or community outreach event each month. 2nd & Main’s Facebook page will provide information regarding its future community outreach endeavors when the time comes. 

“When a customer comes into this space, I want them to know that it’s not just to put money in our pockets,” Jankoviak said. “We want to give them a great atmosphere and a great place to be but also they need to know that we’re stewarding our finances as well by giving back to people and places that are important to us.”

Next month, the business will celebrate Autism Awareness Month. For Germann, who has a child with autism, helping organizations such as Michiana Down Syndrome that advocate for people with special needs means a lot.

“I know for me, personally, every day is a little more difficult; it’s something that no one can understand unless you’ve been there.”

Jankoviak said that the decision to donate 100 percent of tips was made with employee input.

“That was a choice on their part to give back all of their tips,” Jankoviak said. “We didn’t force it. We asked if they were into that and they said ‘yeah, we want to give back, too.’ Employees can come to us with an organization that’s near and dear to their heart and we will take that seriously and add it to our list. You’ll see it at least once per month that we’re doing something like that. There may be times where it’s more than just a day but for now we’re just dipping our toes into it and seeing what works.”

“We really paid attention to who we hired,” Germann said. “We hired really good people that had good hearts. We wanted a good, family environment here and a solid group of employees was the place to start.”

Donations to Michiana Down Syndrome can also be made at throughout the month of March.