10;JANUAR Y 2018 NJMONTHLY.COM
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IN THE DOUGH
Karen Monroy with
members of the Grateful
Bites team, from left,
Zack, Nate, Eric, Mike
and Harry. The bakery is
staffed by young adults
Baked With a Special Touch
the apprentices are hard at work at
Grateful Bites, a sunlit café and bakery
in Flemington. Mike, known as “the
master of pies,” kneads dough. Nearby,
Nate is frosting cakes. In a separate
kitchen, Zack assembles sandwiches
as Harry prepares a broccoli salad and
coleslaw for the day’s lunch.
“I don’t mind the challenging days,”
says Mike, one of 14 members of the
bakery’s team of young adults with autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy
or other developmental disabilities.
Grateful Bites is operated by Ability
2 Work, a nonprofit founded in 2013
by Zack’s mother, Hunterdon County
resident Karen Monroy, and a group
of fellow parents who yearned for
post-graduation opportunities for their
differently abled children. Monroy
began to plan for her son’s future five
years before he graduated high school.
(Zack is now 25.) She visited a number
of programs offered through the state’s
Division of Developmental Disabilities,
but found none suitable. “I wanted a
different choice,” she says.
Few programs that employ Jerseyans
with special needs are as inclusive and
comprehensive as Grateful Bites. Each
apprentice is paired with a support
professional who oversees his or her
work, whether it’s chopping vegetables,
taking orders or serving customers
lunch. Apprentices also are trained in
life skills and cognitive therapy.
The purpose is to ensure that they
can “break down a task step by step, and
finish the job successfully,” Monroy says.
With the proper guidance, she says, dif-
ferently abled individuals can succeed
in a variety of settings. Ability 2 Work
has placed apprentices in jobs at a local
attorney’s office and at the outlets near
the bakery in Liberty Village.
Net proceeds from Grateful Bites
go toward Ability 2 Work’s outreach
and education programs, which support more than 400 differently abled
students who are transitioning out of
school and into jobs.
The program has made a world of
difference for pie-master Mike, 25, who
has lost more than 100 pounds since he
started at Grateful Bites four years ago.
At the job, he says, he has learned to
make “grown-up choices.”
Grateful Bites, at 42 Route 12, is open
for breakfast and lunch, Wednesday
through Sunday.—Andrew Elmers