Steven Spielberg once said, “Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about.” This past Tuesday, my wife and I traveled from NYC and took our 2 kids to a movie theater that’s certainly magic. Located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, The Prospector is “a 501(c)(3) non-profit first-run movie theater that provides meaningful employment to people with disabilities.” 82.5% of people with a disability were unemployed in the United States in 2015. (2015 Dept. of Labor Report) The Prospector employs over 100 people with special needs and many disabilities and the theater is amazing! There is beautiful art on the walls and ceiling, beanbag chairs inside the stadium seating theater, it is meticulously clean and has the nicest staff. It is great for kids, but there is also a café that serves wine, beer and delicious deserts.
Even though the theater is a magical place, it took hard work, not magic to make it happen. The owner and person behind the mission is Valerie Jensen. A former teacher, she transformed what was once a bank into a completely accessible and beautiful theater. All proceeds are used to support Val’s mission to have the employees (called Prospects) “live a higher quality of life through meaningful employment, and are encouraged to sparkle, shine, and turn their passions into professions.” The Prospects do all of the work required to run the theater: collect tickets, sell food at the concession stand, give tours to visitors and even landscaping. The theater is a successful paradigm that shows how businesses and the community can work together to employ people with disabilities and make a true improvement to the lives of so many.
If you live near Ridgefield, Connecticut you’ve got to visit. ― J.K. Rowling said it best: “We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” Valerie Jensen is a true magician and is transforming the world one theater at a time.