Cookies With A Cause

The Ellen Hermanson Foundation will host its annual Denim & Diamonds event on Saturday, March 10, from 6:30 to 10 PM, at 230 Elm Street in Southampton.

Proceeds will benefit The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton and Ellen’s Well, which provides crisis intervention counseling for breast cancer patients.

Shirley Ruch of South Fork Bakery will be honored for donating to the annual Gala at Topping Rose and Denim & Diamonds. Jason and Theresa Belkin and the Hampton Coffee Company and Dr. Louis Avvento of the NY Cancer and Blood Center will also be recognized.

The South Fork Bakery’s goal is to provide meaningful employment to South Fork residents with developmental disabilities.

Ruch is a speech and language learning specialist with a special education degree, with decades of experience supporting special needs individuals through her speech/language practice.

“I started realizing that coaching and family consulting could be a much more impactful way to make a change in children,” Ruch said. In hopes to reach a wider demographic, four years ago, Ruch obtained certification in coaching families, allowing her to coach high school adolescents and adults.

Her work with families over the years made her realize that more needed to be done after the sessions were over.

So, she decided to start a business that “empowers adults with special needs through education and employment.”

Ruch explained, “I got in contact with several other companies [who have similar business models] and brought the idea to my clients. I’m not in this for the money, to build a big company. I’m in it for providing this meaningful, social, community-based enterprise.”

Then, in May of 2016, a business was born in Amagansett. Today, 15 local adults ranging in age from 19 to 45, work at the South Fork Bakery. Each of them copes with a lifelong battle with ADHD, Autism, Auditory Processing Disorder, or other severe challenges.

Cooking offers therapeutic relief for the daily struggles of such disorders, in addition to supplying a learning tool towards creating life skills, said Ruch. The “social aspect of working together” allows individuals to follow directions towards “achieving a product” that they can be proud of. The product is treats such as pumpkin spice blondies, gingersnaps, and chocolate chunky brownies.

Ruch said getting through training is the most difficult part. “Once they learn the skill, I think they can be very advanced. But it does take more than patience—it takes structure; it takes hands on training and checking in. Once they learn it, it’s like the light goes on. They’re feeling very good about it, and they want to do it,” she added.

South Fork Bakery has now filed for non-profit status, expected to go through by the end of 2018. In addition to The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, Ruch has donated to The Retreat, Sag Harbor Food Pantry, Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation’s “A Hamptons Happening,” Coalition for Women’s Cancer “Girls Night Out,” Long Island Cares Inc. “Caliente,” and others.

You can find South Fork Bakery goods at local delis and stores, from Westhampton to Montauk. For a full list of locations, visit www.southforkbakery.com or email shirley@southforkbakery.com.

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