NEW JERSEY - "Here it is," says Sandy Rivers, "I’ve been open for three months and I’m desperate and in dire need for help."
Sandy Rivers needs help. Specifically, so that she can turn around and help people like her parents, both of whom were deaf.
"While my mom was raising us I realized that she was living and dying in a society that wasn’t built for her or my father. And that was kind of heartbreaking," Rivers said.
A society that she says didn’t—and still doesn’t really-- cater to the hearing impaired.
"You knew they couldn’t go to movies because nobody spoke for them," Rivers said. "You knew they couldn’t go to festivals because nobody looked like them. You knew that they couldn’t go to fine dining-- or any restaurant-- because nobody spoke like them."
But this café in downtown Newark is her solution.
Deaf’s Delight is the first of its kind for New Jersey’s 850,000 residents who deal with some sort of hearing impairment.
"Many times you go to places and they don’t have the things, equipment, communication," says Thyson Halley of the New Jersey Deaf Advocacy Group who’s also helping with publicity for Deaf’s Delights. "[There’s a] lack of communication for the deaf person."
Halley says before this, Garden Staters had to drive to Washington, DC, to find something similar.
"This is so important for our community to have a place of their own," he adds.
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But it’s a place Rivers is struggling to pay for. Not because business has been bad—but because of a series of setbacks that most wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy.
For starters, she’s been paying rent on the space since 2019. But because of COVID, she wasn’t able to actually open until this January.
So for all of 2020, it wasn’t considered an official business, which meant she couldn’t apply for any COVID-related small business loans.
Another major hurdle: Rivers says $77,000 worth of equipment was stolen shortly after she secured the space in May 2019.
So for all of 2020, it wasn’t considered an official business, which meant she couldn’t apply for any Covid-related small business loans.
Another major hurdle: Rivers says $77,000 worth of equipment-- essentially her life savings-- was stolen shortly after she secured the space in May 2019.
After that-- when she could no longer afford to make mortgage payments-- she chose to give up the home she’d lived in for 25 years in order to save Deaf’s Delight.
"I don’t want to lose this place. I definitely don’t want to lose something I just started," Rivers said.
She’s set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of keeping it open and, maybe soon, adding outdoor tables to increase capacity while at the same time, increasing the chances that two communities, "two world’s" as she calls them—the hearing, and the non-hearing—can come together.
"This is definitely the community that has been unseen for such a long time. I don’t want that to happen anymore."