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Movers & Shakers: Julie Yawitz Opens AR Workshop Olivette to Empower Daughter With Autism

Movers & Shakers: Julie Yawitz Opens AR Workshop Olivette to Empower Daughter With Autism

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Two years ago, on Mother’s Day, Julie Yawitz had an epiphany when she walked into an AR Workshop. “I instantly felt that this was going to be the next step in Kaitlyn’s journey,” she says.

Kaitlyn, one of Yawitz’s daughters, was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Kaitlyn aged out of services from Special School District of St. Louis County last year when she turned 21. Fortunately, AR Workshop, a women-owned franchise with more than 150 locations throughout the U.S., helped fill the gap and provided a space for Kaitlyn to continue stimulating her mind and nourishing her creative juices.

“Since Kaitlyn’s diagnosis, Greg [Yawitz’s husband] and I made a commitment to provide her with every opportunity available,” Yawitz says. “We’re always looking and planning ahead to ensure she has the tools to feel empowered and confident.”

After attending an AR Workshop party, Yawitz was inspired to open the Olivette location 18 months ago. “With the help of a job coach, Kaitlyn helps us prepare for all of the classes, assists with the ‘to-go’ kits, conducts retail inventory and creates labels on the computer,” she says. “She has meaningful tasks and loves being here.”

Yawitz proudly adds that Kaitlyn calls the studio “her small local business.”

“AR Workshop in Olivette has everything Kaitlyn and I love: crafting, a relaxed, happy environment and lots of parties. It is a [do-it-yourself] crafting and woodworking studio and boutique. The projects are ‘foolproof’ and geared for all skill levels and ages. A person can register to come alone, with a group, or book a private party.”

A native St. Louisan, Yawitz began her professional career at Olivette’s Logos School as an adolescent therapist, which later morphed into a position as a special events coordinator. At age 52, she has also served on the boards of her daughters’ schools. Her daughter Alyson is currently a student at Boston University and is working toward her doctorate in occupational therapy.

Yawitz is passionate about volunteer work and has chaired fundraisers for Autism Speaks, including its kickoff events, awards dinners and Chef’s Gala. She has served as a team captain for Kaitlyn’s Crew at the Autism Speaks St. Louis Walk for 18 years and raised more than $250,000 through that effort.

She also has co-chaired Nishmah: The Journey, a Jewish Community Center pre-Passover women’s event, and has served as its engagement chair for the past four years. Annually, she volunteers for the National Council of Jewish Women’s Back to School! Store.

Yawitz explains that her mission in life is to make a positive impact on people: “I get excited introducing people to new concepts and seeing their pride when they finish their projects. This is what I love most about AR Workshop.”

AR Workshop Olivette is now booking for holiday parties, team-building events, birthday parties, bachelorette parties and more. To sign up for a class or to set up a private event, visit arworkshop.com/olivette or call 314-898-9151. 

An innate storyteller and award-winning photographer and writer, Alice Handelman provides Ladue News readers with a glimpse into lives that enrich St. Louis.

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