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TMI Client with Williams Syndrome Finds Delicious At-Home Work Opportunity During Pandemic


When the pandemic struck, Nick, who has Williams syndrome, was working as a paid intern at a daycare center with the assistance of his Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Facilitator Pat Baker. When the daycare center closed due to COVID-19, Nick had to shift gears and consider his options for the future. He and his family knew that he couldn’t work in the community due to his pre-existing heart condition which makes him more vulnerable to the virus. Thankfully, Nick loves to bake and a new opportunity came knocking!

Nick previously took a cooking class for adults with special needs sponsored by Villa de Vida whose mission is to create communities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The class was taught by Toni Kraft who owns Elements Café in San Diego. Lori Kaufman-Faison, the class organizer, told Toni that Nick loves to bake and hopes to one day open a coffee cart at Villa de Vida selling his baked goods. Toni asked Nick if he would be interested in baking for Elements Café and their food delivery business which offers delivery of small and large meal boxes, as well as farm-fresh produce and groceries, in addition to offering pick-up/take-out at her restaurant at 15250 Avenue of Science, San Diego, CA. He was very excited and said "yes!” Nick is now happily baking for Toni and being paid, which made the offer even sweeter!

Nick first became interested in baking after watching his grandmother bake. He especially loved his grandmother’s chocolate cake! He now finds that by baking for friends he receives a lot of compliments, which makes him feel great. What Nick loves most about baking though is when people enjoy his food so much they ask for seconds!


Nick's delicious cinnamon rolls. His favorite item to bake!

The TMI Tailored Day Services (TDS) program for individuals with I/DD assisted Nick with his Food Handlers Class. When TDS Division Manager Cathena Ferrero learned of Nick’s love of baking, she encouraged him to bake for the TMI Holiday Fair, where he sold out of all his delicious baked goods!

“Seeing Nick’s success is wonderful,” said Cathena. “He sets goals for himself and goes after his dreams, which makes him an amazing role model. We are very proud of you, Nick!”

Nick would love to return to his internship at the daycare center, as well as continue to bake, but will only go back to the center once the pandemic is over or a proven vaccine is developed. He really misses the teachers and the laughter of the children! For now, Nick is enjoying baking at home. For the future, Nick hopes to find another business, place or event to bake for in addition to Elements Café, as well as open a coffee cart at Villa de Vida in Poway once that new community is up and running.


Nick with a good friend staying safe during the pandemic.

Nick feels proud to encourage other people with Williams syndrome, and with special needs in general, to find work and succeed! If you or someone you know would like to order baked goods from Nick, please contact him at lauraimthurn@gmail.com.

For those wishing to order a meal, produce or grocery box from Elements Café, call or text Toni Kraft at (858) 243-1046 for a weekly menu or to place an order.

We can attest to just how delicious Nick’s baked goods truly are! Great job, Nick!

TMI clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are a part of our Tailored Day Services program are encouraged to self-direct and participate in determining their program day. We are here to help our clients plan their day their way. With the anticipation of maximizing life satisfaction, this exciting program tailors our client’s day based on their personal choices, hopes and dreams.

Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.


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TMI HAS BEEN TRANSFORMING THE LIVES OF CHILDREN AND ADULTS WITH INTELLECTUAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES SINCE 1981 AND THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING SINCE 2000. TMI RECEIVES FUNDING FROM DDS. SHOULD YOU WISH TO REPORT ANY CONCERNS, PLEASE CONTACT DDS AT (916) 654-1690 OR VIA THE DDS WEBSITE

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