MILWAUKEE -- For some, going to work is a chore, but for others, it's a labor of love. A Milwaukee business is growing, and giving adults with special needs the opportunity to rise to the occasion.
"We are going to sift two pounds of flour, a tablespoon of baking soda, and salt," said Sol Weingrod, a baker learning new skills at the Friendship Bakery. "I'm learning how to improve my social skills, do different tasks that I'm asked to do."
Gathered around the challah table, Weingrod came out of his shell.
"It's a very caring and giving atmosphere," said Weingrod.
The Friendship Bakery became a source of opportunity for Weingrod.
"This is my first serious job," said Weingrod. "It's very challenging being an adult with special needs and finding a place both of employment, places to live. It can be very challenging."
At the Friendship Bakery, Weingrod found the recipe for success -- rising from some of the hardships he's faced.
"He is confident and he is proud of what he is doing," said Shari Weingrod, Sol's mother.
Shari Weingrod said she's more than grateful for the organization filling a void.
"People with developmental disabilities, there are almost 81% who are under or unemployed," said Shari Weingrod. "Society is changing its mindset about the skills people have and how they can be well utilized."
The goods made at the Friendship Bakery are delivered to Sendik's for the public to purchase.
"We do mini cupcakes, regular cupcakes, eclairs, lemon tarts, personalized cookies, cinnamon bites," said Betsy Kimmel, manager.
The sweetest thing about this story is that the Friendship Bakery is expanding.
"We are going to be in a new facility," said Sol Weingrod. "It's going to be great."
The Friendship Circle Bakery and Coffee Shop is coming soon.
"This is a real dream coming true," said Levi Stein, executive director of the Friendship Circle, the nonprofit behind the bakery that serves families of those who have special needs.
It includes an art studio, where the work created will be displayed, and a sensory room for those who may be overwhelmed and in need of a break.
"We want everyone to feel comfortable and happy in this space," said Stein.
Stein called the expansion a game-changer.
"This is not your typical coffee shop," said Stein. "This is a coffee shop where adults with special needs can thrive, can be included, and can succeed in their adult life as productive members of society."
Members of the community generously donated money and services to help create the space.
"This is a one of a kind location," said Stein. "This is a place where when you walk in -- you smile."
Shira Miller, training to be a barista, grinned from ear to ear as she talked about the confidence and excitement the program brought.
"I love it," said Miller. "It's going to be an amazing time. I can't wait."
"We hope to change as many lives as possible," said Stein.
The doors open to the public Friday, Dec. 20 and on Dec. 19, the staff scheduled a Friendship Cuisine VIP event where they will prepare dinner with love and gratitude.
This venture has truly been a community effort, so you're encouraged to help in any way you can. You can donate online HERE.