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Rockin’ Baker Academy: Changing Lives One Loaf at a Time

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The hours spent flying to family vacation are often spent clearing our minds of our responsibilities and preparing for relaxation. The last thing we would want to do is work through the creation of a new business plan. But most of us are not Daymara Baker, founder of Fayetteville’s Rockin’ Baker.

Maybe you haven’t heard her name, but if you live in Northwest Arkansas, you’re likely the beneficiary of some of Baker’s efforts to provide opportunities for others in her community. She co-founded the NWA Community Creative Center in Fayetteville and has also championed the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, among other activities.

The business Baker dreamed up on that flight home to visit family is unique. Rockin’ Baker operates as an artisanal bakery for most folks who come through the doors, baking up fresh loaves, rolls, sandwiches, and other products for customers and partner vendors. But behind the counter, the kitchen also operates as a training ground, with Rockin’ Baker Academy providing life and work skills to people with intellectual disabilities. The goal is to help Cadets, as they’re called in the academy, attain future employment and live independent lives. It’s clear to see why folks associated with the business call their product “bread with benefits.”

Some Cadets continue to work in the culinary industry, but the skills learned in the bakery are easily translated into other opportunities. Baker works with the Arkansas Support Network and Lifestyles, Inc., two local organizations that serve people with intellectual disabilities, to identify individuals who would be a good fit for the academy.

Rockin’ Baker’s Mission: Developing skills to transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities to help them contribute their gifts, find meaningful employment and maximize their independence.

As COVID-19 caused businesses around the country to close their doors, Baker doubled down on the mission of her business. She kept the ovens “hot and baking” to serve people in NWA suffering from food insecurity. She initiated the Rise Up Together campaign to supply local food banks, schools, and other organizations with fresh bread. According to their website, they had provided over 100,000 servings around northwest Arkansas as of September 2020.

Baker’s efforts are a shining example of the big impact one person can have on a community. It just takes a passion for service and a commitment to work hard – and maybe a little time away. And a few good recipes don’t hurt.

Images courtesy of Rockin’ Baker via their Facebook page.

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Arkansas Women Blogger Laurie is a writer and artist living in Springdale, Arkansas with her husband, son and three cats who think they’re people. She can’t keep her fingernails clean, prefers her tea unsweet, and is on a first-name basis with local thrift store employees. You can follow Laurie at See Laurie Write and Junque Rethunque.

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