Good News Sunday: Naperville bakery aims to offer work for adults of all abilities

Good News Sunday: Naperville bakery aims to offer work for adults of all abilities

  • Moose & Me Bakery employee Michelle Anderson assists with the baking process. Naperville residents Megan and Justin Elder launched the bakery, which aims to hire employees of all abilities, out of their home. They hope to open a retail storefront soon.

    Moose & Me Bakery employee Michelle Anderson assists with the baking process. Naperville residents Megan and Justin Elder launched the bakery, which aims to hire employees of all abilities, out of their home. They hope to open a retail storefront soon. Courtesy of Megan Elder

 
 
Updated 7/11/2021 12:24 PM

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories published recently by the Daily Herald:

Megan and Justin Elder have a longtime dream of making the world a sweeter and more inclusive place -- especially for people with disabilities.

 

That's the driving force behind Moose & Me Bakery, an operation launched out of their Naperville home that aims to hire employees of all abilities. And it's why they hope to soon open a retail storefront and expand their team with help from an online fundraiser.

In less than three weeks, the bakery's Kickstarter campaign raised more than $40,000 of a $50,000 goal.

"It shows that this is something that's wanted and needed in our community," Justin Elder said. "We're well on our way to making this dream become a reality."

The couple, who has two adopted daughters with Down syndrome, said Naperville schools are known for their special education programs, but it can be tough for adults with special needs to find employment.

"Our adults with disabilities kind of age out, and there's not a great spot for them," Justin Elder said. The Elders have hired two employees who have Down syndrome, and plan to hire more workers of all abilities as soon as feasibly possible.

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For the full story, click here.

Heroes honored for 'miraculous' rescue on Diamond Lake

The Epstein family of Vernon Hills and Crystal Lake resident Scott Sroka were honored for saving the life of a 3-year-old girl on Diamond Lake in Mundelein on June 13. Pictured are Hannah Epstein and Scott Sroka.
The Epstein family of Vernon Hills and Crystal Lake resident Scott Sroka were honored for saving the life of a 3-year-old girl on Diamond Lake in Mundelein on June 13. Pictured are Hannah Epstein and Scott Sroka. - Courtesy of Jamie Epstein

Had kayaker Scott Sroka not forgotten his wrist brace, he may not have been around to notice members of the Epstein family frantically swimming toward the shore of Diamond Lake in Mundelein.

At almost the same time that Sunday afternoon, from a boat hundreds of feet away, the Epstein family decided to call it a day just in time to notice a woman in distress.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That Sroka was even there was fate, the Crystal Lake man now says. As was the Epsteins' decision to start heading in at just the right time.

Whatever the reason, the unlikely convergence June 13 resulted in the rescue and revival of a 3-year-old girl who had disappeared beneath Diamond Lake's murky surface.

Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz recently presented Sroka and the Epstein family, who live in Vernon Hills, with the village's Outstanding Citizen Award for their "profound and consequential lifesaving actions."

"I didn't do this for credit," Sroka said. "I did it because it was the right thing to do."

For the full story, click here.

Arlington Hts. women collect food, supplies for families in need

Yeulanda Degala, left, and Rachael Hooker chat near the drop-off site for snacks and other items at Degala's Arlington Heights home. Degala started a grass-roots campaign at the beginning of the pandemic to collect snacks for kids who depended on getting free and reduced-fee lunch at school.
Yeulanda Degala, left, and Rachael Hooker chat near the drop-off site for snacks and other items at Degala's Arlington Heights home. Degala started a grass-roots campaign at the beginning of the pandemic to collect snacks for kids who depended on getting free and reduced-fee lunch at school. - Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the collection box on Yeulanda Degala's front porch in Arlington Heights has never been empty.

Last month, residents dropped off diapers and cleaning supplies for families living in Arlington Park's backstretch. This month, people began donating backpacks and school supplies for students across the Northwest suburbs.

The collection box first appeared at the beginning of the pandemic, as an idea to help children who would be missing free and reduced-fee lunches without going to school. Degala partnered with her friend Rachael Hooker of Arlington Heights to form a grass-roots campaign they called Neighbors Helping Neighbors Arlington Heights.

They started a Facebook group to respond to the need, and within 24 hours they had 200 people join their group. Now the page has nearly 2,500 members.

Their efforts already have drawn the attention of Arlington Heights village leaders and educators. In February, Degala accepted the Community Spirit Heart of Gold Award and, last spring, she and Hooker received a Distinguished Service Award from District 214.

Geneva veteran, coffee vendor brews up relationships

Army veteran Kelly Swentik, right, often meets fellow vets, including Dave Dattilo, while operating his pop-up coffee cart at GreenFields of Geneva retirement community.
Army veteran Kelly Swentik, right, often meets fellow vets, including Dave Dattilo, while operating his pop-up coffee cart at GreenFields of Geneva retirement community. - Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

It's about more than coffee.

"I'm ready for my cup of coffee. I usually have one every day," says 93-year-old John Andersen, as he waits his turn in a line outside his home at GreenFields of Geneva senior living community.

He could get it in the dining room, "but I want to patronize (vendor Kelly Swentik), and it's more to talk to someone different."

Andersen and coffee vendor Kelly Swentik are both Army veterans. Swentik, 34, served with the Green Berets in Southeast Asia and did two tours in the combat zones of Afghanistan. He still does training with the National Guard.

Andersen enlisted in 1945 at the end of World War II and spent 14 months in Japan as part of the U.S. occupation. They chat briefly before Andersen, a retired school administrator with two artificial knees and one new hip, walks away with a smile and a freshly brewed coffee with cream and sugar.

"We have a lot of veterans in the community," says Karen Tomko, life enrichment manager for GreenFields of Geneva, who has contracted to bring Swentik to the retirement center twice so far, and plans to use him in a discussion group around Veterans Day.

"I heard about his coffee service and thought it would be fun for the residents. They can meet someone from another generation who served their country. And it's good coffee."

For the full story, click here.

• Good News Sunday will run each weekend. Please visit dailyherald.com/newsletters to sign up for our Good News Sunday newsletter, and join our Good News in the Suburbs Facebook page.

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