Here is another article I wrote in the OUR TOWN MARCH 2017 – GREEN edition. (https://issuu.com/ourtownmag/docs/otm_mar2017_green_web) This is an article about a VERY unique, non-profit bakery that hires only special needs adults.
Special Kneads & Treats bakery offers employment to adults with special needs
By Heidi Campbell
“Everyone kneads to be kneaded.” Those words are stenciled across the wall inside Lawrenceville’s most important and inspiring bakery: Special Kneads and Treats bakery. Numerous magazines, newspapers, and even the Today Show told of the January 2014 opening of this unique, delicious eatery. The non-profit bakery, opened by Michael and Tempa Kohler, was their vision for not only helping the less fortunate, but also securing job opportunities for special needs adults. “Our twenty-seven year old son has special needs,” explains Tempa. “He has Fragile X Syndrome, so we moved to Gwinnett County for their great schools. After he graduated from Grayson High School, he completed his four years in the Strive program, and then there was nothing. There are so few job opportunities for these special adults, and so we decided we’d open this bakery and he could work there!”
While hiring adult special needs employees is their business model, the heart of the Special Knead’s mission is to provide a birthday cake for any child in the area who wouldn’t otherwise have one. They provide gift certificates to numerous local food banks, as well as organizations including Rainbow Village, DEFACS, Uniting Hope for Children, Bethany Christian Services, C.C. Services, Wishes for Me Foundation, and, most recently, the Partnership Against Domestic Violence. The organizations then give the gift certificates to clients who call the bakery, with twenty-four hour notice, to order their birthday cakes. They receive a 9×13 sheet cake with their choice of four different designs.
The bakery’s donations don’t stop with the birthday cakes, however. They reach out to as many charitable organizations as their donation intake allows. They recently donated four hundred cupcakes to the Village of Hope, which is a non-profit organization that helps the homeless in Lawrenceville. They also donate cupcakes to several events honoring veterans, they donate to Night to Shine, which is the Special Needs Prom program that Tim Tebow developed, and they donate to Gwinnett County’s sherriff, police, and fire departments.
The shop features a delectable selection of cakes, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cookies, and “choc-corn”. Their cupcake selection includes twenty-six heavenly flavors, including salted caramel, Mississippi Mud, and German chocolate, with options for vegan, gluten free, and sugar-free dietary needs. They have eight flavors which they change out monthly. This month, they featured a “New Year’s Resolution” cupcake for those watching their calories. One regular customer, Justin, a special needs adult who works at Kroger, helps them create new cupcake ideas. His sixth and most recent idea, the Peppermint Bark Cupcake, is currently in the mix, and it features a vanilla cupcake with a mint chocolate ganache center, topped with white chocolate cream cheese icing and red and white chocolate shavings on top.
The “choc-corn”, available in small, large, and even a $100 bag, may be their most unique and popular item. People rarely leave without a bag of the white chocolate coated corn puffs. “We had a customer who was here from out of town,” recalls Tempa. “He tried our choc-corn and loved it so much that he went and bought a suitcase so he could bring home twenty bags!”
The bakery employs twelve special needs adults, ages twenty-two and up, who begin as volunteers. They also welcome seven volunteers who come in to help out with the large special orders. According to Tempa, they have a waiting list of 130 special needs adults who would like to secure a job at the bakery. “We are actually in the process of opening a new, larger location,” shares Tempa. “This will be off of Scenic Highway, and we plan to move in by the end of April. Once we have more space, we hope to really work down that list of 130 special needs adults looking for work.”
The bakery’s employees do all sorts of jobs in the shop, with the exception of using the ovens. They fold boxes, greet and help customers, attach date stickers to liners, decorate cakes, sweep, bag choc-corn, and chop pecans. “To see the expression on their faces when they do something they’ve never done before is amazing,” beams Tempa. “They are so proud of what they can do. One of our employees, Scott, who uses a walker, was 52 years old when he started working here. He’s now 54 and lives with his parents. When he got his first paycheck, he was so excited that he cashed it and took his dad out to lunch.”
This bakery truly has it all: heart, a higher purpose, and delicious sweets. The bakery is equipped to handle all orders large and small. Along with normal cake orders, they also do multi-tiered wedding cakes and have successfully filled numerous large orders; the Pigs and Peaches BBQ event in Kennesaw ordered 1,000 cupcakes. “The adults who work here are amazing employees. They take pride in what they do, they are always on time, and they love their paychecks!” explains Tempa. “We need to educate the public that these adults can do so many jobs- all they need is a chance.”
Visit http://specialkneadsandtreats.com/index.html to learn more about this special bakery or to donate to their worthy cause.