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Soul Stories: Sam Morris “Sweet (Hugs) Soul”

Nothing feeds the soul quite like a job well done – and Sam Morris gets his spiritual nourishment at the Soul Café and Soul Studio. Sam’s line of Sweet Hugs artwork, clothing and products has become very popular in recent months. But, he’s also well known for his work at Soul Café.

“Working in the café is wonderful,” says Sam, a busser from West Bloomfield who has learned as much about himself and his abilities on the job as he has about restaurant work itself.
There, he says, “I feel my soul.”

From greeting customers and serving water, to ensuring every glass sparkles and each piece of silverware is in its proper place, the 25-year-old with an infectious smile puts his all into every task. And his cheerful demeanor warms the hearts of everyone he encounters.

“Sam is a very joyous human being,” says his mother, Carolyn Sklarchyk. “He has always been a very social … person. He loves greeting everybody that comes in. Everybody’s happy to see him and he feels a part of the whole, a part of something bigger.”

Sam beams with pride as he describes the skills he’s gained over the past year. Jobs that once overwhelmed the young man who has autism, now uplift him.

“I used to feel it’s too much for me,” he says, recalling the days when his training first began and his list of responsibilities seemed insurmountable.

But an incredible sense of self-awareness coupled with strategies he’s learned turned self-doubt into pride and frustration into gratitude.

“(I’m) unbelievably grateful … knowing how much my brain has handled things,” says Sam, who is quick to point out that his autism “makes me smart.”

So smart, in fact, he’s developed methods for coping with the pressure that comes with the rigors of restaurant life – making lists, setting priorities and pacing himself, just to name a few.

“He’s outstanding … (and) very smart,” says Johnnie Johnson, property manager for the Soul Café. “He listens. Whatever you show him, he’ll knock it out with no problem.”

While the Soul Cafe job is relatively new for Sam, his relationship with Friendship Circle isn’t. Sam has grown up with the organization, having participated in its programs since the nonprofit’s inception in 1994.

“They’ve followed him throughout his entire life,” his mother says. “It’s more than even just a sense of belonging. He knows that he is loved.”

Today, Sam’s involvement with Friendship Circle extends beyond the Soul Café. He spends quite a bit of time in the Soul Studio, doing ceramics in the morning and painting in the afternoon.

The studio has “given him a way to communicate emotionally … through painting,” Carolyn says.

And his artistic expression resonates with people. A chair he made – with an image of two people embracing on the front and a rendering of a heart on the back — auctioned for $14,000 during an event to raise funds for the Soul Studio.

Sam was ecstatic — and proud he created something that brings joy to others. But it’s his job at the Soul Cafe, he says, that feeds his desire to give back.

“They treat me well and I know what I’m doing with my job,” he says. “I’ve gotten very good.”