Sunflower Bakery Wins Disability Prize

Gaithersburg-based Sunflower Bakery, which trains students with developmental disabilities in its kosher facility for employment in the baking industry, this week won one of five $50,000 Ruderman Prizes for Disability.

The second annual prize, which recognizes organizations operating innovative programs and services dedicated to the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community, was announced Monday by the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Sara Portman Milner, a Sunflower Bakery executive vice president, said the board is considering how to use the money. “We’re not looking for support for what we’re doing now. We hope to designate most of the money to move us forward,” she said.

The bakery, founded in 2008, trains up to 15 students a year. It provides skilled, on-the-job training, internships and employment services to individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities.

“A lot has been done with services for the developmentally disabled,” Milner said. “The key is inclusion in the community. Here, they get the opportunity to earn — like everybody else.”

There were 244 applicants for the prize. Jay Ruderman, president of the Newton, Mass.-based Ruderman Family Foundation, said Sunflower Bakery’s application “really jumped out. It’s so innovative in its approach.

“The idea of providing opportunities for sustainable employment — it seems so simple,” he said. “Baking is a great field for people with disabilities.”

The other prize winners were: B’nai Amoona Synagogue in St. Louis, Mo.; United Herzlia Schools in Cape Town, South Africa; Escuela Comunitaria Arlene Fern de la Fundacion Judaica in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and AMIT in Israel.

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