Friendship Bakery Teaches Special Needs Students Kitchen And Social Skills

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Street Beat Street Beat
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By Zahra Huber

A Metro Detroit community group is giving adults with special needs a chance to learn several skills needed to get a job. Classes at the Friendship Bakery, a 9-week program, are held Thursdays inside the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield Township.

Devorah Newman is a students at the Friendship Bakery, and she suffers from epilepsy, a seizure disorder.

“I feel I’ve formed a social life. Because my whole life I feel people have always been afraid of me,” said Newman.

That ability to socialize is one of many things Newman has learned through the program. She says the classes have also improved her baking, something she’s always loved doing.

“I feel it’s something I’m very proud to do. Whenever I go see my doctor I bake for him as a thank you,” said Newman.

But she adds that her disability gets in the way of her getting a job.

“I want to get a job and I would love to work in a bakery. I’d also love to work maybe at a bagel place. But like I’ll say, when you’re disabled, no one wants to give you a job,” said Newman.

As part of the Friendship Bakery, students make dozens upon dozens of loaves of Challah, a Jewish egg-based bread.

“It’s a very positive environment, there’s a lot of comradery, everyone’s working together. They usually work in teams,” said Rivka Mann, Manager of the Friendship Bakery.

“They really enjoy helping each other, so one who’s better at measuring with numbers with scale, will weigh the dough. And then they’ll have someone else take it to the roller and roll it out, and then someone else might braid it.”

Mann says the progress she sees in her students’ social skills is astounding. She adds that students also learn kitchen safety and hygiene, as well as fine motor skills.

Mann says she hopes the program helps special needs adults get the opportunity in life everyone deserves.

“It’s a great thing for them to have on their resume if they’re looking for a job in the food industry, anywhere in the restaurant business. And some of them are interested in sports and all kinds of fields, and really the fact that they’ve been an intern here, is going to help them in any industry,” said Mann.

As for Newman, she hopes once she graduates she can get that job at a bakery or bagel place — and use her skills to help others like her.

The challah, by the way, is taken to Hiller’s markets the next day as well as the Friendship Circle to be sold.

For more information about the Friendship Bakery, visit Friendship Circle’s website.

This story is slated to be part of an upcoming episode of “Street Beat” on Saturday, March 29 at 8:30 a.m.

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