When you buy a blueberry muffin, a strawberry pop tart or colossal cookie at The Porch at Christie’s (theporchatchristies.com), you’re doing more than eating a delicious, sweet treat, you’re helping make people’s lives better. The pastries are baked by the first five graduates of Sweet P’s baking program for disabled adults. Sweet P is the nonprofit arm of The Porch at Christie’s, the restaurant that opened at 161 Cross Highway in May 2021.
Andrea and Bill Pecoriello, Westporters of long standing, got the idea when they noticed how few services there are to teach employable skills to developmentally challenged adults. They and their two professional pastry chefs, Terri Cahn and Mary O’Brien, developed a two-part, ten-week, hands-on course on baking foundations and producing Sweet P’s signature baked goods.
The positive benefits flow both ways. For the newly minted bakers, a sense of confidence, independence and pride. “One young man works for us just three hours a week. His dad said, just those three hours made his confidence soar,” says Andrea. For the community, local families, and Bedford Middle School students who flock to The Porch in the afternoons, interactions with servers with disabilities, show that “differences don’t matter,” as well as examples of shining positive attitudes.
“Sometimes the world is not the nicest place, but when you step up on The Porch, you’re welcome, included and equal,” says Andrea. “It’s beyond our wildest dreams, the number of people who tell us they’ve been touched by Sweet P and The Porch.”
There has been so much interest in the classes that “the waiting list could fill the program four times over,” she says. Having developed a replicable model and production system based on a color-coded kitchen, adaptable to individual skills, the Pecoriellos are looking at expanding the program. Check the website (sweetpbakery.org) for the latest updates and events.