Crumb Together–The cookies are good, the mission is outstanding
As a rabbi’s wife and mother of 11 children, Freida Hecht already was doing a lot of outreach through her non-profit CT Circle of Friends, which pairs young adults with friends with special needs to help solve the social isolation that often accompanies disabilities.
(Photo: Intern baker Maddie Hess with Freida Hecht.)
“How can I keep bringing light and friendship and really change these people’s lives?” Hecht asked a friend one day.
She informally surveyed the families in Circle of Friends about their favorite activities. Over and over, baking arose as the number-one response. Inspired by that knowledge, the spirit of community, and a little help from her own friends in the baking industry, Crumb Together was born.
Approximately 80 percent of people with a disability are unemployed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Now, Crumb Together, this Norwalk-based organization, is committed to finding a solution—and with delicious results. Crumb Together Bakery was founded with a simple mission: To provide meaningful training and employment opportunities in the baking industry for adults with disabilities, all the while creating the most delectable baked goods from challah bread to chocolate chip cookies, under the guidance of a professional baker. “Everybody has a soul. Everybody has potential,” says Crumb Together founder Hecht.
“The chocolate crinkle cookies are my favorite to bake,” says baker Maddie Hess. “I’m always happy here.”
Maddie’s mother, Janice, learned about Crumb Together through word of mouth and Maddie has been baking with the team three days a week for over a year.
“Freida and this organization are an inspiration,” says Hess. “I see steady growth happening with the bakers and it gives us so much hope.”
The non-profit bakery currently operates under the care of CT Circle of Friends, rents commercial cooking space from the Beth Israel Chabad of Norwalk, and is run by executive director Hecht, executive pastry chef Michelle Klem, life-skills coach Rachel Carusone, a few adult volunteers (including some with presitgious food and beverage credentials), and 14 bakers.
Norwalk resident Hannah Costa was the very first baker to enlist in the Crumb Together program, which includes the ServSafe food safety course among other culinary and small-business administration skills.
“At first I was nervous,” says Costa while manning a large mixer of dough. “Now, I have fun working together with everyone making chocolate chip cookies.” Besides being fun, the work is paying off, as Hannah, Maddie, and several other bakers recently took the standardized exam and earned their ServSafe certificates for food safety from the National Restauarant Association.
Today, only two years into the endeavor, all of the dairy free, nut free, and kosher treats baked at Crumb Together are available for purchase by phone or email and also online.
The bakery hopes to open a retail location in the future and to have its products available more widely at grocery stores, such as Whole Foods and locations around the area. “We want to make the best cookies and baked goods out there,” says Hecht. “It’s the feather in the cap of any bakery who hires one of our bakers.”
Hecht believes that inclusion is key for making a happy, connected, and fulfilled life. In a bakery environment, there is an opportunity for the perfect microcosm of teamwork in the world.
In the case of Nicole Bastoni, her abilities allow her to fulfill an essential role as the designated egg handler. She goes to Wakeman Town Farm to collect the eggs used for baking. Other bakers have their own special places in each recipe, resulting in warm and tasty baked goods that people love.
Each baker, whatever their role in the process, is unconditionally treated with respect as a genuinely valued member of the team. The bakers’ goals are united as well in the pursuit of creating the most fabulous baked goods on the market.
“To be honest, and I’m not even sugarcoating it, I love what we do” says executive pastry chef Michelle Klem with a pun-intended smile. “We are making meaning out of baking.”
Sweet Offerings at Crumb Together
›› Holiday shaped cookies
›› Snowball Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
›› Artisan Challah
›› Blueberry Muffin with Streusel Topping
›› Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
›› Chocolate Chip Cookies
›› Pumpkin Spice Cookies
›› Snickerdoodle Cookies
›› Honey Cake