Funny how people come into our lives and the timing. Earlier this week, I wrote about an autism Mom who was facing problems with her daughter's dental hygiene. Well, that Mom has another daughter who opened the amazing Puzzles Bakery and Cafe where she employed people with autism and launched awareness right in Schenectady, New York, near Albany. I visited Puzzles on March 11 back in 2016, and wrote about how fabulous it was then. And will be AGAIN soon, we hope. On a darker note, Sara got blowback because she used the Puzzle theme for autism. The Neurodiversity crowd in action. Imagine causing grief for a young woman trying to help the community over... a symbol? Sara had to close because of Covid, but the hope is that it will reopen. In fact, the local paper featured Puzzles this week.
Foss: Puzzles Bakery and Cafe remains closed in Schenectady, but hopes to reopen
...What makes Puzzles’ ongoing limbo so distressing is its human toll.
Pratt conceived the restaurant as a place where developmentally disabled adults would work side by side with their neurotypical peers, attaining the meaningful, real-world work experience that too often eludes them.
Written March 13, 2016 by Kim Rossi
Sometimes dreams come true. Thoughts and ideas on paper spring to life before your eyes. For instance, I'm a big Harry Potter fan. I can recall watching the very first movie in the theatre and marveling at how each scene turned the book into a cinematic reality before my eyes.
When I was a young woman, I joined the Junior League and volunteered at a local Children's Museum. One of their exhibits was "The Great Green Room" from the classic book, Goodnight Moon. I had no kids of my own, but I knew the book, of course. And when I walked into the room for the first time, I was transported into the pages.
As my girls have aged into adulthood, I've been writing the story of their future in my mind's eye. A bakery with an autism theme has been a dream of mine - far fetched - but still, a dream.
On Friday night, I saw firsthand how that dream would look when I had the great honor of speaking at Puzzles Bakery & Cafe, in Schenectady, New York, whose owner, Sara Mae Hickey is an autism sibling. From their website:
In addition to serving delicious food, the bakery-café provides adults with developmental disabilities with an opportunity for personal growth, as well as a source of income, social interaction, and a sense of purpose.
Sara Mae has done everything right. And I mean everything. From the design of the signage, to the soothing, bright cheerful interior (with a community room) to the menu of fun, healthy and delicious foods, Puzzles would be a great bakery and cafe even without the autism theme. But that theme is truly the icing on the cupcake.
I think the autism siblings will change the world for our kids. They are battle tested. Some will become advocates and warriors on behalf of their brothers and sisters. Like Sara Mae Hickey has for her sister.
As April approaches, the month of "awareness", we need to promote businesses and people who personify action, support. Eating cupcakes and drinking "holy cannoli coffee" is a pretty easy way to get started.
Thank you Sara Mae. Thank you Elaine Rambo Hickey, her Mom, and my FB friend who introduced me to her daughter's work.
Puzzles Bakery. Check it out.