Kirstin Bradach enjoys the color pink, laughing, making food, and taking photos of her creations. Until last summer, Kirstin worked her entire adult life for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette (GICW) in Portland, OR. GICW is transforming its services to entirely community-based, and is focusing on finding integrated, community jobs for its clients.
Kirstin went through Discovery and one of her passions and interests that stood out was baking and cooking. Job developer Brenda Courtright looked for a job that would fit Kirstin’s skills and interests at a family-owned business. “I like being in the community; it’s more fun,” Kirstin said. “I meet lots of people here. And the people here are so sweet.”
Kirstin, 28, currently works 15 hours per week as a lobby attendant at Kyra’s Bake Shop, an entirely gluten-free bakery in Lake Oswego, OR. Kyra’s Bake Shop is an award-winning bakery, recognized as a multiple winner of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. Kristin’s duties include stamping the take-home bakery bags, keeping the lobby area clean and organized, and greeting customers. She had her first job interview of her adult life with owner Kyra and started working at the bakery in June 2016. “It was so awesome,” Kirstin said, grinning. “Everyone really liked me and I liked them.”
Kirstin has Down Syndrome and lives in Beaverton, OR. Lori Demers, Kirstin’s job coach with GICW, said Kirstin has grown more confident and expanded her job duties as time has passed. “She started by just cleaning tables,” Lori said. “She advocated for herself for more hours and duties.” Mary Lucas, manager at Kyra’s Bake Shop, said customers at the bakery love interacting with Kirstin in the lobby. “She is great at doing the little things so there is less for us to try and squeeze in during the busy day,” she said. “When Kirstin first started, the reaction from customers was overwhelming. They recognized that our business was being more inclusive and responded very positively.” Kathy Alderson was Kristin’s original job coach. She said Kirstin has changed since she first started working in the community. “She has blossomed,” Kathy said. “At first she was shy and wasn’t sure of herself, but she is growing so much and has become so confident.”
“KIRSTIN IS SUCH A POSITIVE EXAMPLE OF WHAT SOMEONE CAN ACHIEVE IF THEY ARE GIVEN A CHANCE.”
Kirstin loves to cook in her free time with the help of her aides at home. She flips through photos of dishes she has cooked on her phone, pointing out ones she is especially proud of. “I take pictures of the food because I love to be creative,” Kirstin said, holding up a photo of a colorful beet salad she prepared. “I love anything creative.”
In addition to working at Kyra’s Bake Shop, Kirstin is a member of I’m A Star, a theater arts program specifically designed for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. “Kirstin is such a positive example of what someone can achieve if they are given a chance,” said Kathy Alderson. “When you let go of misconceptions about what people can and can’t do and let us work for the person and find a good fit, a lot is possible.”
Story and photo credit: DHS Oregon Employment First https://iworkwesucceed.org