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Sweet Taste With a Social Mission

Life tastes sweeter when basic needs are met. What many people take for granted – a home, a job, a friend, a productive life in the community – might not be the case for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In 1974 the Brenner family established Community Mainstream Associates, (CMA) and provided the impetus for its purpose and philosophy. As a private, not-for-profit organization located in Garden City, CMA’s mission is to provide residential, vocational, and case management services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Toward this end, the “Sweet Comfort Café & Bakery” recently opened on Irma Avenue across from Alpers. Since the majority of CMA’s clients already live in Port Washington and needed jobs, the organization conducted several feasibility studies as to what fellow citizens would enjoy in a town café and bakery. Outdoor seating and “a place to hang out” with Internet access won every time. A zoning variance was granted solely on the basis of the bakery’s mission. After a “soft opening” in April, Sweet Comfort currently employs seven CMA clients in order to learn marketable skills and to earn a competitive wage. In addition to excellent desserts that feature house specialties such as chocolate chip cookies, bite-size cookie bars and fresh fruit tarts, organic coffees and teas are served. All the baked goods are made from scratch without the use of preservatives or chemicals and there is a strong emphasis on quality. The chef, Patrizia Neuwirth Gibson, works closely with employees and bakes all day to create delicious desserts. Her extensive culinary training in Austria and entrepreneurial background, combined with patience and compassion, creates a productive and happy kitchen. Sweet Comfort only offers baked goods with recipes that CMA clients can master. Jennifer Miceli, the bakery’s manager, commented that the team works very well and a spirit of camaraderie developed pretty quickly. Her previous experience in the hospitality industry serves her well in this new position but she never expected such gratification. She calls Port’s positive response to the new bakery amazing.

Melissa Raphael, CMA’s director of Enterprise and Job Development, visits the bakery every day to help tweak recipes and to reinforce measures that make CMA’s dreams become realities. The décor is fabulous because Keith Baltimore, a Port resident and talented designer, collaborated with CMA to provide engaging details and special touches to create a special atmosphere for a quick coffee or leisurely visit with friends.

Sweet Comfort is open seven days a week and is looking forward to offering late night hours after a formal grand opening celebration in the fall. Free samples tempt palates and sweetest of all, CMA’s vision gives pride in accomplishment to its employees, friends and customers.