A new ecommerce store, Embrace Marketplace, is selling apparel and other items made by people with Down Syndrome, to help support people with Down Syndrome.

The twist: the store's owner, Ashlee Crater, has Down Syndrome.

That's sort of the point behind Embrace Marketplace (embracemarketplace.com), which launched in February with its goal of providing meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Jobs were often already difficult to come by for the disabled before the coronavirus, an issue that's only been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

"I am so excited to have a job," said Crater of her Reading-based business. "I had two jobs last year but couldn’t work because of COVID. I am smart and love to work!"

Crater added that she enjoys working because she likes the feeling of a job well done.

With her family's support, Crater is now fully focused on Embrace Marketplace, which is as much a business as it is a movement intended to empower the Down Syndrome community by offering a platform to sell products, as well as through philanthropic efforts.

"We genuinely acknowledge the strengths that people with Down Syndrome bring to their communities and want to offer a place where they feel appreciated and valued while also showcasing their own passions and discoveries," reads a statement on the Embrace website.

"Now more than ever, we need to embrace one another and work to support those who are often overlooked in employment opportunities."

The website is currently selling shirts, hoodies, travel mugs and throw pillows with the words "accept, include, embrace" emblazoned across each product. One T-shirt also marks the upcoming celebration of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.

Some items, such as a water bottle and drawstring bag, have already sold out for now.

Crater said public enthusiasm for Embrace Marketplace has been "awesome" and she's happy with the direction it's headed so far.

The hope is Embrace Marketplace can become a vehicle sell more homemade creations from members of the Down Syndrome community, potentially items such as ornaments, hand-sewn bags and facemasks.

"For self-advocate and owner Ashlee Crater, being able to connect with others within the disability community is essential in making a difference and promoting empowerment for all," reads the website.

"By wearing one of our items, you are embracing the journey for those who want to create their own paths and turn their passions into their futures."

A portion of every item purchased results in a donation to Dayspring Homes Inc., a faith-based nonprofit out of Shillington that assists people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dayspring is near and dear to Crater's heart, having actively and enthusiastically participated in one of the center's programs for many years.

Now, she dreams of growing Embrace Marketplace and building its movement to a national scale.

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