RICHMOND, Va. -- At Tablespoons Bakery, the baking team uses several key ingredients to create its ooey-gooey delicacies. From flour and sugar to chocolate. But the most crucial additive?
The nonprofit on Richmond’s Southside opened its new brick-and-mortar store in November.
The bakery serves two purposes:
Satisfy the sweet tooth and provide life-changing opportunities to people normally on the outside looking in.
Tablespoons is part of the Next Move program which hires and trains young adults with challenges.
Chris Brennan, who lives with some learning disabilities, entered the Next Move program in 2013 and Tablespoons five years ago. Chris said he flourished working with patrons, muffins, and cookies.
“I used to be shy at first but now I’ve really opened up,” Brennan said. “I enjoy baking. I enjoy talking to customers.”
Co-founder Elizabeth Redford said the unemployment rate for young adults like Chris hovers around 70%.
“We see so often that these young adults graduate from high school and they often sit at home often indefinitely,” Redford said.
What Chris learns behind the counter, she said, will help him when he is front and center in life.
“We’ve seen confidence grow,” Redford said. “We’ve seen him become more outgoing with our customers. We’ve seen him become more of a leader with us.”
Tablespoons churns out thousands of cookies for their monthly cookie club.
From baking to boxing, Tablespoons staff members do it all.
“I like to talk to customers,” Shelly Lantz said.
Tablespoon’s Director of Education Kelsey Dunn called her colleagues second to none.
“That is what makes our program different,” Dunn said. “We do know how to meet people where they are and provide them the support that they need to become confident and successful in their job tasks.”
Cookie sales help cover the cost of rent and training programs.
In the months and years ahead. the nonprofit would like to add catering and wholesale to their mixing bowl.
“What is important to us is that our young adults are learning transferable job skills,” Redford said.
While not letting the cookie crumble, Chris Brennan is tasting the sweet success in life.
“I work extremely hard,” Brennan said. “If there is a new task to do or something new to do I jump right into it. I love it a lot.”
Brennan is a valued member of the Tablespoons team which has the ingredients to bake a difference.
This spring Brennan is taking on a new role at Tablespoons. He will become a mentor for high school interns who also live with disabilities.
Tablespoons Bakery is located at 1707 Westover Hills Boulevard in Richmond.