News / USA

Bakery Cooks Up a Sweet Future

Trains special needs people for food industry jobs

Tiffany Yanaway, 19, (r) and Katara Tyler, 17, are trainees at Sunflower Bakery, which helps people with learning disabilities find jobs in the baking industry.
Tiffany Yanaway, 19, (r) and Katara Tyler, 17, are trainees at Sunflower Bakery, which helps people with learning disabilities find jobs in the baking industry.

Step inside the kitchen of Sunflower Bakery and you’ll notice the typical sights, sounds and smells of a professional kitchen in action. But there is one thing that sets this bakery apart from others in the area: its special training program.

Five days a week, two professional pastry chefs work one-on-one with young adults from the community who have developmental or other cognitive disabilities. Their goal is to teach them basic skills so they can become proficient enough to get jobs in the baking industry.

During the 12-month training program, students spend about six months receiving professional instruction at Sunflower followed by a six-month internship, either in-house or at a local bakery.

Sweet Dream

Sara Portman Milner and Laurie Wexler founded the non-profit enterprise in 2009.

Before launching Sunflower Bakery, Milner worked at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington developing their special needs program.

Wexler had almost two decades of experience in program delivery and fundraising for non-profit organizations.

"As a social worker, I met Laurie and she said to me one day, ‘What do you think about this idea of starting a bakery that would train people with disabilities to work in a bakery?’" Milner recalls, "and I said, ‘I’m all about that. I love baking, I love working with people with special needs to give them opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise, let’s try it.’”

They started the bakery as a pilot program, and it grew from there.

Perfect career choice


Most of their trainees, who range in age from 18 to 27, are transitioning from school to the workplace. Sunflower is there to help ease that journey.

After going through its training program, Verred Joharie (center in yellow) is now employed at Sunflower Bakery and hopes to have a career in the baking industry.
After going through its training program, Verred Joharie (center in yellow) is now employed at Sunflower Bakery and hopes to have a career in the baking industry.

They have a variety of disabilities, from language processing difficulties to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bi-polar disorder to mild intellectual deficits.

Because of their challenges, it usually takes them longer to learn and process information. Milner says that’s why baking can be a perfect career choice, since it involves a lot of structure and repetition.

“This provides a socially acceptable way to get a job that you learn skills that are valued and needed, and you get paid with the structure built in,” says Milner.

Gaining confidence


Rachel Easterling, 23, has been working at the bakery on a part-time basis since April of this year and says working with the bakery staff has helped her gain confidence.

“The way I am, they’re so patient with me. I feel like I will learn more here than anywhere else because they take their time with you, they’re not too busy, it’s like one-on-one with you. But if I go somewhere else everybody’s just too busy.”

Treats baked by trainees at Sunflower Bakery
Treats baked by trainees at Sunflower Bakery

Trainee Verred Joharie, 21, has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder on the autistic spectrum. People with the disorder often have difficulty interacting with other people and adapting to new environments.

But Joharie says her training at Sunflower has taught her to be more self-assured.

“At the beginning I was unsure. I was confused, I was anxious. Now, since they’ve helped me, it’s like I can open my eyes to the world and see what I want to do, how the world works, including working environments. I want to put myself out there, but I know it’s going to take a little bit more time for me.”

Into the workforce

Joharie was one of five students to graduate from Sunflower’s training program this past September - the first group to complete the program since it began.

Sunflower Bakery's desserts are boxed and ready to be delivered.
Sunflower Bakery's desserts are boxed and ready to be delivered.

The aspiring young baker did so well that Sunflower hired her - for pay - right after she completed her internship at a local caterer.

The other graduates also have promising futures in the baking industry.

Milner says the training program has been life changing for many of her students.

“When we started Sunflower bakery, we knew we wanted to try to give people opportunities," she says. "We had no idea how phenomenal the impact would be on trainees. And we’ve had people who’ve turned their lives around.”

Milner says she hopes to be able to expand her bakery from the industrial setting where it’s currently located and add another site, with a full storefront and café, where trainees can further develop their culinary skills.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid