2013 Ruderman Prize in Inclusion Winner
Location: Gaithersburg, Maryland
The mission of Sunflower Bakery is to prepare individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities for employment through skilled and inclusive on-the-job training. Up to 15 students are trained annually in the Pastry Arts Training and Next Steps Employment Services Programs under the tutelage and guidance of professional pastry chefs and disability professionals including an employment specialist. Over 80% of students are completing the program and over 70% are in internships or employed. Sunflower is helping to fulfill two Jewish communal needs: a skilled, on-the-job training program for young adults with disabilities and a kosher bakery providing pareve desserts from favorites to upscale and trendy. A growing number of employer partners ranging from boutique bakeries to national supermarket chains provide meaningful internships and employment opportunities.
“It’s rare to get an opportunity like this…it’s a godsend, really. I’ve been through schooling…that is supposed to be focused on people with disabilities – almost never did I get the attention on what I need…[At Sunflower], it’s adaptive, personal, shows that they really care.”
Justin Vaeth, age 28, Sunflower graduate, employee at Revolution Foods
“We are overjoyed to be realizing the dream of preparing young adults with a range of developmental and other cognitive disabilities with marketable skills and workplace experience desired by employers in the pastry and food industries. Our graduates are securing and sustaining jobs of their choosing, increasing self-sufficiency and enhancing their self-esteem.”
Sara Portman Milner and Laurie Wexler, Co-founders and Co-directors