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Digging Deep

Making and impact on autism, one cup at a time.

Wearing a vivid smile, Lauren Thome Burgess feels like a person who is the right kind of caffeinated. She has a natural energy… but she knows a bit about coffee too. Lauren is the youthful, vibrant founder of Garden, Inc., a for-profit that provides important services and scholarships to families affected by autism. Garden works with children, adolescents, young adults and adults. She also founded Dirt Coffee Bar, a nonprofit that strives to empower adults with autism, and the community, by raising awareness, cultivating jobs, and creating sustainable prosperity through creative collaboration.

Putting autism support and advocacy together with multitudes of cups of joe took some creative thinking and a lot of dedication. Of course, Lauren has both in droves. After getting her master’s degree in Educational Psychology, Lauren saw a huge problem. There was an overwhelming lack of services for the autism community in Colorado.

She became determined to create a space where all individuals, families and organizations affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders could be embraced by committed professionals AND access to the comprehensive, therapeutic and educational programming. Garden, Inc. was born. In 2012, Lauren received a scholarship to attend Denver’s Greater Good Academy. While learning about effective Triple Bottom Line business planning, she made another plan.

Dirt Coffee Bar would be a Denver-based coffee bar that would employ young adults with autism. Lauren’s creative solution generating brain didn’t stop there. She reached out to the community through IndieGogo, and raised $35,000 (beating their goal by $10,000) to make Dirt a reality. And now Dirt Coffee Bar is open in Littleton.

What’s truly admirable about Lauren’s story is that she has made it all look so easy. She saw the incredible deficit when it came to programs supporting autism. She dedicated her life to providing a broad range of services, and even when she established one solution, she found another, practical and creative, way to to help. Through it all, she has brought compassion and unique solutions.

What keeps her going, are the people Garden and Dirt work with.

“The growth I see in our clients every single day is what continues to inspire me to keep going, to keep pushing and to keep reaching.”