Breaking Barriers with Baked Goods: The Inspiring Mission of Tablespoons Bakery
All parents worry about their child’s future. When you have a child with a disability, there are often extra complicated questions and some startling realities families have to face. One current reality is the incredibly high unemployment rate for young adults with developmental disabilities.
Elizabeth Redford and Mary Townley, both former special education teachers, are passionate about combatting unemployment in the disability community. In 2012, Redford and Townley were hired to run an internship program at a large bio-tech company – taking over some pilot programming the business had started in this space. The internship program served young adults transitioning out of high school and was created to teach essential life skills, social skills and work readiness skills to build independence and a foundation to gain and maintain employment. Within a few years, the program had partnered with several Richmond area school systems.
Redford and Townley eventually left the bio-tech company to start their own non-profit, the Next Move Program. In 2015, Next Move transitioned to an externship model, creating guided and intensive internship programs. Next Move coached teams of people within organizations so that they could support and provide job training to young adults with disabilities.
Despite the progress that had been made, Redford said she felt like something was missing. She saw a need for more connection. In 2017, the non-profit Next Move Program launched a baking program. The focus remained on job training and the program and curriculum was supported by the Virginia Department of Education. Tablespoons Bakery started selling their baked goods at a local farmer’s market every Saturday at SOTJ. By 2018, Redford had enough momentum (read: were consistently selling out) and support within the community for a Brick and Mortar. Of course, the pandemic slowed this process down but by 2021, their doors were opened. Five of the original young adults who participated in baking and selling at the farmer’s market were hired at Tablespoons.
The Richmond community is lucky not only to have Tablespoons’ delicious desserts but a local business showing us that people with developmental disabilities are capable of greatness. If you are local or visiting, stop by and see for yourself. If you’re not nearby, do not worry. You can show your love for employment opportunities by following Tablespoons Bakery on social media or donating to The Next Move Program.