Crumbles Bakery provides learning experience



There are delectable pastries to delight the eyes and please the palate at Crumbles Bakery.

But the warm feeling also comes from something other than eating a German chocolate cupcake or mammoth muffin. It’s from the positive learning experience and job training for participants in Turning Point No Limits Alternative Day Program for adults with developmental disabilities.

Lesley Phillips, bakery manager, said Crumbles Bakery opened in August as a part of the Turning Point program, which works with individuals 18 and older who have autism, special needs and developmental delays. Some also have physical disabilities. Turning Point is a private provider of services; referrals come from Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Phillips said small groups participate in bakery tasks Monday through Friday. “They get experience in baking, packing, using the register and more,” Phillips said. “They apply the skills they’re working on at the day program to be more independent.”

Classes in safety in operating ovens and mixers and correct hygiene are reinforced in weekly sessions.

All the baking is done under the supervision of Betty Sweed, pastry chef, and Debbie Brown, assistant. Sweed’s sugar cookies are popular among schools and students. The cookies can be ordered with icing in team colors.

Phillips said the bakery builds on daily living skills that the individuals have practiced and other skills in some production work they do for area businesses such as bagging items. But because the participants have limits on their abilities, the bakery takes only special orders now. “It’s a slower process,” Phillips said.

The day program participants have a range of capabilities. “Everyone can contribute in some way regardless of their abilities,” Phillips said. “Everyone is able to do something.”

That something may range from cutting ribbon to certain lengths to tie up bundles of pretzel sticks to assembling gift baskets.

The baking assignments help participants practice measuring ingredients and following instructions.

The bakery changes with the seasons; Phillips said soon they will be taking orders for pumpkin, cherry and sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving.

The bakery now has an autumn and Halloween theme. The accompanying decorative items, which are for sale, were crafted by program participants. There also are nonseasonal items for birthdays, thank-yous and babies.

Sharon Jackson, an assistant in the program, is a retired special-education teacher in Mahoning County. She works with participants on crafts and gift baskets. “What they do helps them practice and learn more skills,” she said.

“Each person can contribute something ... and they know they helped in making the finished product that is sold.”

The experience, she said, is gratifying to them and bolsters their confidence.

“They do it from the heart and put their hearts and souls into it,” Phillips said. She added that because they do it together, they delight in one another’s accomplishments.

Brown, who works with participants in the bakery, said she is “inspired by them.”

“They love to learn and learn something every day,” she said. “We should all do that ‘happy dance’ of life.”

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