FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is ‘Disability Part of the Equity Equation.’
KNWA/FOX24 visited a bakery that exemplifies this by hiring those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Rockin’ Baker employees, which they call ‘cadets’, are learning much more than how to bake fresh bread.
Cadets are also building confidence while learning how to work as a team. Daymara Baker founded the nonprofit to give those on the Autism spectrum a space to be themselves and learn skills that can be applied to other jobs.
Baker says most of the cadets have never held a job because there wasn’t opportunity for them to, so Baker encourages other organizations to give neurodiverse individuals the chance to work as well.
Baker says her employees are really talented and referred to her cadets as hidden gems you just have to polish a little for them to shine. She said she’d rather have to make small accommodations for them, rather than miss out on a group of such loyal workers.
“They’re never going to walk out of the job. They’re going to be here no matter what. So, I rather accommodate a little and always notice that I can always count on them,” said Baker.
At Rockin’ Baker, cadets make at least minimum wage.
Baker said giving these individuals a job has been life changing for many of them. She’s seen cadets buy homes and be able to fully support themselves.
“One of my cadets recently told me that she felt so much had been taken away from her that she had lost hope on the theory of working as a baker and she just joined our team on Monday. It was a way for her to feel like ‘Yeah, I can be here making something to be really proud of,'” said Baker.
Baker said your support is needed now more than ever. She wants to serve more local businesses and hire more cadets.
Baker is asking for people to donate to the nonprofit, so they can purchase more equipment and continue to help feed the community. You can find a way to donate here.
If you want to hear more about the bakery, a documentary of Rockin’ Baker will be screened in this year’s Fayetteville Film Festival.