Our Mission

Our mission is to help young adults with special needs harness their own special talents and prepare them to transition to rewarding careers and realize their dreams of leading meaningful lives.

Our Vision

We envision a community where young adults with special needs can transition from high school to the adult working world with dignity. We foresee special young adults able to capitalize on their strengths, acquire essential job skills, realize their potential, and gain confidence in interacting with their typically developing peers.

Our Story

We get asked two questions all the time, “What’s the story of ZABS Place?” and “Who is ZABS?” As directors of Friendship Circle, an organization supporting children with special needs, Bentzion and Rochel Groner realized that employment opportunities for young adults with special needs were severely limited following graduation from high school. The Groners had been exploring potential solutions when they were approached by Charlie and Caren Gale, who had become frustrated in their effort to find employment for their 18-year-old son on the Autism Spectrum. After extensive research and much joint effort ZABS Place opened in 2014.

So who is ZABS? ZABS is the acronym of the Hebrew name of a young man named Zachary. A happy, athletic, positive, take-over-the-world (in a good way) teen. He was awesome to be around. His friends and family loved him. His teachers raved about him. He was passionate about helping others, especially children and teens with special needs. That’s how he got involved in Friendship Circle. When Zachary was 18, he was diagnosed with a horrific form of Leukemia. He fought a ferocious battle and bravely faced the challenges and suffering no 18 year old should know. Ever! Zachary went into a remission for a short while but unfortunately the dreaded disease came back, and Zachary was taken from us at the young age of 19. ZABS Place reminds us of Zecharya Avraham Boruch Shporer and the incredible example he lived and taught.

Our Programs

ZABS Training Program

It’s hard to get a job with no experience. It’s even harder to get experience with no job. That’s why we’re here. We offer Job Skills Training, based on the interests and abilities of each of our Specially Talented trainees.

ZABS After Hourz

We believe that work should be FUN. But, so should hanging out together! That’s why we offer After-Hourz events for our ZABS Talent to enjoy socializing, spending time, and sharing laughs together, just like their peers!

ZABSpreneurs

We’re AMAZED by the abilities of our Special Talent. That’s why we’re dedicated to helping local Special Talent perfect their skills and create a sellable product, right in our store! We support Special Micro-businesses.

Upcycling University

We love crafting and we’re all about inclusion. That’s why we created an inclusive opportunity to craft and build community with individuals who have special needs talents. This is another way we teach skills that can lead to financial independence.

Our Talent

Bentzion

Bentzion

Chief Executive Talent

Blaire

Blaire

Upcycling University Professor & ZABSpreneur AdviZor

Jonny

Jonny

Talent Coach

Bentzion

Chief Executive Talent

A Rabbi, a Dreamer, and a Native Charlottean walk into ZABS Place. Sounds like a joke but actually it’s Bentzion (or Rabbi Ben as we call him). As Chief Executive Talent, Rabbi Ben wears many hats at ZABS. You might find him pitching ZABS to a crowd of 1,000, chatting with a potential donor, or arranging a truck load of donated furniture from a showroom in High Point, NC. Whatever he’s doing it’s with enough passion for 10 people!

Fun Fact: Bentzion’s dream job is to be a pilot!

Blaire

Upcycling University Professor & ZABSpreneur AdviZor

Blaire is ALL things crafty, creative, and organized. Wait, WHAAT?! Is that even a thing? Yup, seems it’s possible to be super crafty, creative, AND organized. Either that, or we’ve found a southern unicorn.  Always ready to try something new, Blaire is a master upcycled “Gnomesmith”, Vinyl Wizard, Mask Sewer, Paper Folder, and she plans it all out to make it fun and accessible for our Special Talent to enjoy. 

Fun Fact: Blaire was a Principal in the Union County Public Schools for 20 years!

Jonny

Talent Coach

To coach ZABS Talent you need to have many talents, otherwise it’s hard to keep up. Thank G-d for Coach Jonny! Whether supporting our Online Sales Talent, Donation Sorting Talent, or Clothes Hanging Talent, he’s patient, understanding, team-playing, guitar-playing, idea generating, and all around ZABStastic! 

Fun Fact: Jonny used to run a ship anchored in the middle of the ocean! 

Kristen

Talent Accelerator

Is it her patience, her smile, or her creative approach to skill-building that makes her so amaZing at helping our Talent learn? She’s got the perfect balance between supporting and stimulating growth & independence. She’s all about meeting our Special Talent where they are and helping them get where they want to go.

Fun Fact: Kristen thought her dream job was to work in a hospital and it wasn’t till she started that she realized that wasn’t really her dream! Maybe that’s why she is super committed to helping our ZABS Talent figure out and follow their dreams!

Lisa

Snow Globe Shaker

Snow globes are beautiful until the glitter settles. Then they’re kinda boring. Lisa makes sure to shake things up just enough so the glitter swirls again! She’s all about opportunity and making magic happen at ZABS Place. She’s also the one who helps you find that special something when you happen to stumble in “just to look around.”

Fun Fact: Lisa has Super Talents! She’s been Director of a Preschool, Head of a Retail Store, and even Director of a Children’s Museum.

Inspirational Fact: ZABS Place is named after Lisa’s son Zachary who passed away from Leukemia when he was 19.

Rochel

ZABSaholic-in-Chief

Worker-bee. Workaholic. Workhorse. Call it what you want, but this girl is ALWAYS working. Pricing clothes, ringing up a customer, fixing furniture, upcycling a “curb-find”, are all things Rochel does on the side. Her main job of course is being the Director of ZABS Place!

Fun Fact: Rochel is sometimes called the “Girl on the Plane” thanks to an interesting experience she had on (you guessed it) an airplane back in the summer of 2017.

Kristen

Kristen

Talent Accelerator

Lisa

Lisa

Snow Globe Shaker

Rochel

Rochel

ZABSaholic-in-Chief

Stacy

Product Queen

Meet Stacy. Trust us, you’ll want to meet her. She can organize a house, car, office, and even the dreaded spare room with the mounds of stuff, all before you can say, “Waaaait!!!”.  Seriously, Stacy is the ZABS Product Queen. Everything donated to ZABS is carefully examined by Stacy and her team to determine its true potential and then displayed to maximize its opportunity to find the perfect new home.

Fun Fact: Stacy moves 1 TON of ZABS Stealz/day

Stacy

Stacy

Product Queen

Our Board

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Board Member

Darius Chase

Darius Chase

Board Member

Caren Gale

Caren Gale

Co-Founder and Board Member

Charles Gale

Charles Gale

Co-Founder and Board Member

Kevin Anderson

Board Member

With experience as a consultant for 20+ years in Banking, Distillery, Insurance, Airlines and Utility and working in positions including CIO, Project Manager, Crisis Manager, Business Analyst, and LAN Analyst, there’s little that Kevin isn’t familiar with.

As the Dad of a young man on the Autism Spectrum who had several key individuals in his life that made a difference, Kevin is glad to have the opportunity to give back.

Fun Fact: Kevin worked with Apparo to help ZABS Place choose the training progress program used by all ZABS Talent.

Darius Chase

Board Member

Currently serving as Relationship Manager for South State Bank specializing in health care and commercial banking, Darius has over 19 years of experience serving clients in a variety of banking roles. He also is a Board Member for Loaves and Fishes of Charlotte. Darius believes that everyone has their own individual talents and should have the opportunity to realize their dreams of leading meaningful lives.

Fun Fact: Darius and his wife have two daughters and he’s a Charlotte Sports fan.

Caren Gale

Co-Founder and Board Member

Caren is a true Mamma Bear! She won’t rest until all her cubs are cared for. Caren became a special needs advocate when her son was diagnosed with Autism at age 2. She realized that with a little encouragement and support, anyone and everyone can succeed. Today, Caren is the Chief Advocate and Community Liaison for ZABS Place.

Fun Fact: Caren is an incredible best story-teller and her cub son Jonathan was the first employee at ZABS Place!

Charles Gale

Co-Founder and Board Member

After switching careers with his family’s move to Charlotte, Charlie taught at the Fletcher School for nine years before retiring after the 2019 school year. After his son with Autism expressed interest in having a job after high school, Charles and his wife Caren realized they needed to help prepare him to enter the working world. They realized they were not alone and that job training was a need for thousands of other young adults in the Charlotte area. After meeting with the Groners, they set out to make this plan a reality for their son and many others.

Fun Fact: Charles lived in L.A. and worked in the film industry for 25 years.

 

Matt Herson

Matt Herson

Board Member

Henry Lander

Henry Lander

Board Chair

Eric Lerner

Eric Lerner

Board Member

Jon Massachi

Board Member

Matt Herson

Board Member
The CIO of the Global Accident and Health Division of AIG, Matt is responsible for casting multi year technology strategies and overall IT delivery. In addition to ZABS, Matt sits on the Board of the Cowan Slavin Foundation which grants to 501c(3) organizations in North Carolina, New York and California.  Matt is active in the Charlotte InsureTech / FinTech community with advisory roles in both Queen City FinTech and Carolina FinTech Hub.  Matt lives in Charlotte with his wife Jane and 2 children Daniel and Annie. 

Fun Fact: When not working, Matt enjoys household projects and vacations in the family RV.

Henry Lander

Board Chair

Henry is an undercover Magician. He excels at analyzing complex situations and magically creates actionable plans to help organizations achieve their goals. On second thought, maybe he’s a Ninja! As a Six Sigma Black Belt he uses Change Management techniques to simplify and improve problem analysis, decision making, and planning. It’s better than a knock-out punch! Take that complex situation! 

Fun Fact: Henry is a native of Venezuela and has a real passion for supporting Latinx-led businesses.

Eric Lerner

Board Member

Eric is a native of Charlotte; yes, they exist.  After attending Wharton Business School and working for several large companies he decided to try selling screen-printed t-shirts.  What started as a random idea became Action Plus Ideas and has evolved into a full service promotional product agency.   Eric uses his marketing talent to help brands market themselves with unique promotional items and imprinted apparel.  Eric also serves on the board of several other local organizations.

Fun Fact: Eric had the inspiration to start his promotional product company while vacationing in the Virgin Islands.

 

Allan Oxman

Board Member

Sue Schreiber

Sue Schreiber

Board Member

Benjamin Schwartz

Benjamin Schwartz

Board Member

Leslie Sykes

Board Member

Sue Schreiber

Board Member

Sue began her career as a counselor who worked with young adults with special needs helping them find job opportunities and navigate the benefits system. That was followed by over 25 years in Early Childhood Education. Sue has always worked with children and their families and believes that everyone deserves to be in an environment that considers and respects their individual ability, cultural background and developmental needs. 

Fun Fact: Sue is learning Hebrew so she can keep up with her young granddaughters who live in Israel! 

Benjamin Schwartz

Board Member

Born in Charlotte, Benjamin is a Licensed NC Real Estate Broker and has interests in Politics, Finance, and the Environment. Benjamin is eager to see ZABS Place grow in the Charlotte market by helping raise awareness about what who we are and what we do to help local Special Talent.

Fun Fact: Ben has an 11 yr. old daughter and 4 yr. old son

Ruth Strunck

Board Member

Michelle Toler

Board Member

Kelly Wollinger

Kelly Wollinger

Board Member

Kelly Wollinger

Board Member

Kelly has worked in Marketing for over 10 years and has served on several organization boards and in other leadership positions… besides for being a Mom of two. Kelly sees the socialization, peer networking, and friendships that happen at ZABS Place and the impact that they make outside of work. Kelly is passionate about being a part of a thriving and exciting grassroots organization that truly focuses on its mission. (That’s US!)

Fun Fact: Kelly is the Mom of one of our ZABS Talent!

Corporate Friends

We are fortunate to have the support and partnership of incredible local businesses to help us recognize Special Talents and #Zpotential:

Action Plus Ideas

Brown Brothers Harriman

Deckard Heating & Air Conditioning

Maid Brigade

Morningstar Storage | Tyvola

South State Bank

Wells Fargo Foundation

2018 Partners

Allan & Marcelle Oxman
Barbara Henry
Charlie & Caren Gale
Cowan-Slavin Foundation
Jeff Cohen, BECO
Dave & Sandy Krikac, The Gear Foundation
Ed & Leslie Rusgo
Eric & Lori Sklut
Eric & Susan Lerner, Action Plus Ideas
Fred & Lisa Shporer
Jewish Family Services of Greater Charlotte
Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte
Jon & Dina Massachi
Levine-Sklut Family Foundation
Luquire George Andrews, Inc.
Michael Garrie, Signature Exteriors
Matt & Jane Herson
Richard Osborne
Robert & Ann Abel
Sarah Conklin, Little Engine Photography
Social Venture Partners (Seed 20)
True Homes Foundation
Upstart Lab
William & Ruth Baker

2018 Dedicated Volunteers

Andrea Gamlin
Bari Gorelick
Brenda Waxman
Channie Weiss
Charlie & Caren Gale
Charlotte Rouchouze
Cody Dugo
Dave Gerrard
Dina Massachi
Donna Lerner
Eric Lerner
Fred & Lisa Shporer
Joshua & Debbie Chopas
Leonard Marco
Sue Schreiber
Tamir Avraham
ZJ Gamlin