Written by by Ben Abrams
Rebbetzin Freida Hecht, founder and executive director of the Circle of Friends, greeted the crowd of 250 participants at the 15th Annual Gala Evening of Recognition and fundraiser held on Sunday, Pesach Shaini, at the Inn at Longshore in Westport, CT.
The event successfully raised much needed funds to operate its year-round programming of “Home with Friends” and the “Sunday and Tuesday Circle” events that sponsor a total of 36 programs of inclusion per year.
The ACAPELLA of Yeshiva University provided entertainment, and the crowd was wowed with the newest project of the Circle of Friends — the new kosher bakery called “Crumb Together – Always Rising” that is licensed by the City of Norwalk Health Department and conducts its program at the catering facility of Beth Israel Chabad of Westport/Norwalk.
Currently, twelve-post high school age young adults are enrolled (there is a waiting list) learning the skills of baking and the principles of food safety handling. The pastry chef instructors are licensed teachers trained in educating students to acquire the skill-sets required to be employed full time in the food industry.
On hand for the evening were the Town of Westport First Selectman; Jim Marpe and the City of Norwalk Mayor; Harry Rilling. Also attending was Westport’s Judge of Probate; Lisa Wexler and lay leaders from the community present in a show of wide community support of the Circle of Friends that is an all-volunteer program sponsored by the Circle of Friends of CT.
Over the years more than 600 teen volunteers have participated in this community program with many of the volunteers maintaining years later their connection with their special friend. The program although non-sectarian — shares the Jewish holidays and customs with many of the mostly Jewish volunteers and their friends with special needs who have a limited exposure to Torah and Yiddishkeit. A very special video was produced for the evening and as always is dedicated to the REBBE and teachings of Chassidus as being the organizations spiritual inspiration and conduct of all of its activities.
Samplings of the delicious and legendary crinkle chocolate and snicker doodle cookies all baked at the Crumb Together bakery was handed to all of the participants as the conclusion of the event.
The innovative bakery program trains and employs young adults with disabilities under the tutelage of a professionally trained Pastry Chef and College trained instructors, schooling the bakers with special needs with marketable skills such as food safety handling, baking, food preparation and more. These skills will allow them to pursue a career in the food preparation and bakery industry.
Crumb Together is a bakery established with a social conscience. Its goal is to train and employ adults with disabilities to produce delicious kosher baked goods, under the supervision of a skilled pastry chef. According to the latest statistics 75% of adults with disabilities are unemployed.
Freida Hecht its founder and director says, “Our mission is to change that shocking unemployment statistic. Here, special needs adults have the unique opportunity to learn skills, build self-esteem, socialize, and be productive members of the community, while, at the same time, producing scrumptious baked goods”. The bakery products are produced in a nut free facility and is certified Kosher – Parve – Pas Yisroel & Yoshon under the Supervision of CT Kosher – Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht.
The Bakery is based at Beth Israel Chabad of Westport/Norwalk. The baked goods are available through on line orders made through its website. To order baked goods or for more information go to www.crumbtogetherbakery.org.