Mingus – Mingus is one of those places in the Lone Star State that you need to be driving to in order to get there. Located off I-20, just a few miles north of the ghost town of Thurber, you’ll find Mingus and not much else. “There’s all of about 140, 150 people, or something like that,” said Jan Underwood, owner of Beneventi’s Italian Restaurant.
Jan’s great grandparents immigrated to this tiny town in 1906. “They were Italian immigrants, and they came through Ellis island and got on a train and my great grandparents bought this property and it was a grocery store and they bought it side unseen, paid $88 for it. And came over with four little girls and one of them was my grandmother,” explained Jan.
Jan is carrying on the family lineage at Beneventi’s, a business that’s housed in the same building her great grandparents started their new lives in. “This building is about 160 years old,” stated Jan. “As a child, I worked in this grocery store, and I loved it out here. I was from Fort Worth. I loved the country,” said Jan.
Today this fine dining eatery option with perfectly presented pasta dishes is a far cry from what they’re used to around these parts. “Well in the past, Mingus was the liquor store. Now we have something a lot classier,” said local DeAnna Roberts.
“Anybody that lives in this area knows that this was just a rundown grocery store until Jan decided, ‘I want to do it.’,” said Vickie Dempsey.
“People were just kind of starved for something other than chicken fried steak and burgers,” said Jan.
But Beneventi’s serves a bigger purpose than just filling bellies. They fulfill a need for those who need a little bit of guidance in getting through life. “I had a purpose for the restaurant, so, it could be a make-or-break type deal. I didn’t have to worry about it just being a restaurant because it had another purpose. A greater purpose,” expressed Jan.
While trying to figure out what to do with the former family business, it became clear to Jan what needed to happen. “I know what Mingus is going to be. It’s going to be a setting where we can train people with intellectual differences so that they can get jobs within their own community,” explained Jan.
The reason Jan is so passionate about this cause? “We have a son, Austin who’s 43 and he has down syndrome,” said Jan.
“I’m happy because my mom is one of the participants who are helping all the other people,” said Jan’s son, Austin.
“He was born in 1978 and at that time, the inclusion in the schools in the United States had just kind of begun. So it was hard for us to even get him in our neighborhood elementary school. And then as he got older, we just had to keep pushing and pushing to try to find different things for him to be able to do,” explained Jan.
Raising a son with down syndrome wasn’t a burden to Jan, it was a blessing. One that has created an incredible opportunity to help others with intellectual differences with The Each and Everyone Foundation, a vocational training and transportation program that provides a place to stay and learn. “We only let the participants stay from one to four weeks because we don’t want them to get entrenched and find another home away from home because we want to accelerate their movement into the workforce and also to do meaningful employment where they’re making a living wage,” explained Jan. “I want the other people to have an opportunity like I do, to be independent from themselves, except not sitting at home. They learn how to come out here and work in a time restaurant here at Mingus,” said Austin.
Austin went through a similar program as a young man but when it came to opportunities afterwards, they were few and far between. “Basically, he was always cleaning the bathrooms and busing the tables, which he hated. He ended up spending 13 years at a grocery store, but he always wanted to own a restaurant,” explained Jan.
“They make me feel happy because I see that they’re happy,” stated DeeAnna.
Whenever a new recruit comes the Benevinti’s, Austin is the first to offer a warm welcome. “People are reaching out to me, literally daily, for their son or daughter to come and train here,” said Jan. “Their vision of what she’s done here is just outstanding,” said Scott.
What makes Benevinti’s even better is the food is incredible thanks to Jan passing down her family recipes. “Honest to God, Italian,” stated Vickie.
So if you happen to be driving between Fort Worth and Abilene and you get a hankering for some Italian, stop by Benevinti’s to polish off some pasta and meet some of the most marvelous servers in the Lone Star State. “Just know they’re just people. They’re just really pretty regular people. So, to me, it’s not much of a difference than having red hair or brown hair. It’s kind of all the same,” expressed Jan.
“This is unique, so that’s why it’s special. And it touches people in a different way,” sad DeeAnna.
“Enjoy the joyfulness that this place will provide,” expressed Vickie.
“There’s a lot of places around the great state of Texas that people can go experience. And this is just one that if you get lucky, you’ll know about it and you’ll get to do it before you kick the bucket,” said Scott.