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Nonprofits Built Themselves on a Dream. Their New Mission: Survival.

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Nonprofits Built Themselves on a Dream. Their New Mission: Survival.

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That was how things were at No Limits, the New Jersey cafe. Then it got hit by that tidal wave that Mr. Delaney of the Nonprofit Council talked about.

No Limits is in Middletown, not far from where Ms. Cartier and her husband, Mark, a government bond trader, live. The cafe was created with the notion it would give their third child, Katie, who has Down syndrome, both a job and a future.

“When a person with intellectual disabilities turns 21, that is called ‘falling off the cliff,’” said Ms. Cartier, 57. “Up to that point, you are supported by your school system, but there are not a lot of meaningful employment or college programs for this population.”

Neither of the Cartiers had any restaurant experience, but they plunged ahead with their idea. They found a site, a former Italian restaurant, and spent many months modifying it so the kitchen, for instance, could accommodate people using wheelchairs and walkers. They applied for nonprofit status, solicited donations, hired a chef to design a menu. They spent more than $200,000 of their own money.

As it happened, Katie did go to college, to a special program at George Mason University, but the cafe was flooded with job applicants. On Feb. 4, when No Limits had its soft opening, it served 80 people. It got some local publicity. It might have caught on.

And now? Limbo while the virus rampages.

Tommy Hedden, 26, was one of the cafe cooks. It was a considerable step up from his previous job as a cart attendant at the Food Town supermarket. He made $11 an hour.

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