Anegada Delights: Empowering Students with Disabilities with HCEDA Support

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Since opening in Columbia in 2018, Anegada Delights, founded by Elizabeth Ndungu and her husband, Lebert Vanterpool, has stood out not only for its outstanding Caribbean cuisine but also for its commitment to community empowerment. The restaurant’s partnership with the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) has been crucial in advancing this mission.


A Vision of Community Empowerment

From the outset, Ndungu and Vanterpool aimed to create a business that would provide opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their journey began with a collaboration with the ARC of Howard County, seeking to employ qualified individuals for restaurant work. This initiative has since expanded to include partnerships with Humanim, the Linwood Center, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), and their customers, offering training and work experience to a growing number of individuals with disabilities.


Currently, Anegada Delights engages eight individuals with disabilities in food preparation and cleaning duties. Two are full-time employees, while others, from Howard High School, Oakland Mills High School, and the Linwood Center, gain valuable work experience. Additionally, the restaurant hosts an intern from HCPSS’s Project SEARCH program, designed to promote long-term employment for individuals with disabilities.


Statewide Recognition

The inclusive employment practices at Anegada Delights have not gone unnoticed. In April, Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Carol Beatty visited the restaurant to commend its efforts.


“We support and highlight employers who go the extra mile to create opportunities,” Beatty noted. “This visit helps us advocate for the value that people with disabilities bring to the workforce.”


Jade Gingerich, Director of Employment Policy for the department, acknowledged the challenges small businesses face in hiring workers with disabilities. “It requires more initial effort, but training individuals who can eventually train others builds long-term capacity,” she explained.


Culinary Innovation

Anegada Delights’ head chef, Vanterpool, originally from Anegada in the British Virgin Islands, has crafted a menu that celebrates Caribbean flavors. Popular dishes include jerk chicken, whiting fish, oxtail, coconut shrimp curry, goat stew, and halal meat options.


Recently, the restaurant introduced a juice bar featuring all-natural, sugar-free smoothies made with fresh fruit and ice. This addition has been highly popular. “We’re training one of our high school students to manage the juice bar, with the hope of hiring him once his training is complete,” Ndungu shared.


Sam Ottenstein, a full-time employee with a disability, has been with Anegada Delights for five years. His responsibilities include scaling fish, preparing shrimp, cutting chicken, cleaning dishes, and mentoring new students. “I enjoy training students and showing them that having a disability doesn’t make them any different from others in the community,” he said. “It’s important for them to feel proud of what they learn here.”


The Role of HCEDA Support

The growth and success of Anegada Delights have been significantly bolstered by the support from the Howard County Economic Development Authority. The HCEDA has provided critical assistance, including a microloan that has enabled the restaurant to expand its operations.


“Working with the HCEDA team has been an absolute pleasure. Their dedication to supporting small businesses is evident in every interaction. The microloan they’ve provided will be instrumental in our growth journey. With this financial support, we’re looking forward to expanding our marketing efforts, hiring new talent, and boosting our advertising initiatives. We’re grateful for the HCEDA’s partnership and their commitment to fostering economic development in Howard County,” said Ndungu.


Future Expansion Plans

The success of Anegada Delights’ training model has inspired Ndungu to explore further expansion opportunities. She is reaching out to other restaurants, the Restaurant Association of Maryland, and Howard County Government for support. “I have so many students I’m training, but not enough placements for them,” she said. “They can’t all stay here forever, although I wish I could keep them. That wouldn’t be truly helping them.”


Anegada Delights exemplifies how businesses can make a significant impact by providing meaningful opportunities for individuals with disabilities. With HCEDA support, Anegada Delights continues to enhance the local workforce and contribute to the community’s well-being.


Business Monthly: Anegada Delights cooks up opportunity for students with disabilities

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