When a new bakery in Old Towne Temecula, Oak Grove Culinary Creations, opened its doors a few months ago it partnered with the organization Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) and hired three of its Integrated Work (IW) clients. The clients, David, Jon and Spencer, are part of TMI’s vocational training program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The clients work a weekly schedule to learn and build their job experience, with their sights set on using those skills to earn paid employment. The Oak Grove Center and the management group for Culinary Creations, has a similar mission of supporting at-risk and special needs youth in learning culinary, vocational and hospitality skills. Oak Grove CEO Tammy Wilson stated, “We are proud and honored to partner with TMI. Our goal was to provide job opportunities and training for Oak Grove, as well as other young adults with special needs in the community. The hard work these young men do is enriching for them, as well as Culinary Creations!” This bakery really has been the perfect opportunity for both Oak Grove and TMI to follow through with their missions in assisting those they serve. David, Jon and Spencer were hired as Baker’s Assistants. They perform a variety of tasks with the assistance of their TMI Job Coach, Shana Jamchi. This enables them to learn and experience much of what can be involved when working in a bakery. Each of their shifts can lead to something new for them. Right from the start the job challenged the group. Being in a food environment, it required them to study for and pass the Riverside County Food Handler Certification course, which they did successfully. Their bakery duties include washing dishes, interacting with customers while clearing tables, food preparation, sweeping and taking out trash, as well as some advertising ventures. For example, on Saturdays they visit the streets surrounding the bakery, which includes the weekly Farmer’s Market traffic, to pass out flyers and sign spin to let people know about the bakery. The tasks have opened their eyes to opportunities. They now have their sights set on front-end training to take orders and operate the register. “The TMI team has added so much ‘sweetness’ to our shop and our culinary team,” said Culinary Creations Manager Jean Bacher. “They always come in with a great big smile, can-do-attitude and a positive vibe that illuminates the room and everyone they meet,” she shared with enthusiasm. “As a result, we have had many customers come to the shop for the first time because of their positive interactions with our TMI team during their community outreach activities. We are truly excited and honored to have them be a part of our Oak Grove Culinary Creations family.” The TMI IW program is designed to meet the employment and community integration needs of individuals with IDD who are over the age of 18 and are Regional Center clients. Although paid work is the desired outcome for all clients, many are working as volunteers at a wide variety of nonprofit organizations throughout Riverside, San Diego and Imperial Counties. If you know of a local business who could benefit from TMI volunteers or employees, please contact TMI at (800) 877-5452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.