For people with disabilities, meaningful employment that offers fair pay can be difficult to find. But slowly, businesses across the country are changing that. The latest example is Tablespoons Bakery in Richmond, Virginia.
The Next Move Program is a non-profit organization that partners with businesses to provide jobs and training for people with developmental disabilities. But their next big project is getting a lot of attention: a bakery that will serve as a training and employment site, and will also host community educational events and workshops. The bakery is scheduled to open in 2020, but already, the baking program has been launched.
Twice a month, Tablespoons students work with professional bakers, and are responsible for every step of the process, from taking inventory and ordering supplies, to baking the goods, selling them, and organizing catering. As the Next Move website explains, “They are exposed to many critical work and independent living skills like financial literacy, teamwork, customer service, kitchen safety, and measurements, all while making friends and having fun.”
It may seem like a small step, but these businesses are increasingly making a difference for people across the country. Amy Wright, founder of coffeeshop Bitty & Beau’s, was named CNN’s Hero of the Year for her work advocating for people with disabilities. Both of her children — Bitty and Beau — have Down syndrome, and she was inspired to take action when she learned that 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed, while even more are paid less than minimum wage. Other businesses, like Sweet Jordan’s and John’s Crazy Socks, are likewise paving the way to provide employment for people that society often overlooks. “We have something to contribute to society and our lives have value and meaning, just like everybody else,” Jordan St. John, of Sweet Jordan’s says on their company website. It is businesses like these that will not only lead to a better future for people with disabilities, but a more inclusive world — and that benefits everyone.
“We tell anyone who will listen about our program and our dreams of having our own bakery,” Cheyenne Jones, a student at Tablespoons, told CBS6 News. “A place to belong, grow, get, and give back. You cannot buy acceptance, friendship, love or community, but a cookie can open the door and the crumbs can lead the way.”
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