A sweet, cinnamon smell hovers over Elaine Tallman's cozy kitchen in Endicott, where her daughter, Angela Tallman, is busy tying red and green ribbons around freshly baked cranberry apple pies, her favorite.
Dressed in an elegant red lace top under a handmade apron adorned with decorative apples, rolling pins and pies, the 34-year-old has, for the past day and a half, been elbow-deep in flour, sugar and shortening, churning out 20 mid-sized pies to be sold the next morning at the Broome County Regional Farmers Market.
She'll bake another eight of the "Gifted Sweets" before this day is done.
For Angela, who has Down syndrome, the sale marks the debut of her new business, Special Kneads, an idea sparked after hers was one of several jobs cut from Achieve NY programming in September.
She'd worked there for 10 years.
In April, Achieve NY notified professional employees that their jobs may be in jeopardy, a product of New York's continuing effort to mainstream the developmentally disabled, directing them out of programs designed specifically for the population and into real work settings.
Since being let go, Angela, who lives with other individuals in an Endicott residence operated by Catholic Charities; her parents, Tom and Elaine Tallman; and her good friend, Mary Alimonti; have devised a plan: bake pies from scratch, sell them in the community, then get more of Angela's friends — who've now also found themselves out of work — on board to build a viable bakery business.
"So they can be a part of it too," Angela said.
Angela's no stranger to hard work. She danced for 10 years as a child, paints and loves coloring books, and she graduated from Union-Endicott High School through Broome-Tioga BOCES.
Her first job was folding washcloths, nightgowns, towels and sheets for Bates Troy in Johnson City. She also cleaned tables and worked in the kitchen at Cornell Cooperative Extension's Cutler Botanic Garden and packed boxes for Frito-Lay.
They were long hours and jobs that kept Angela on her feet all day, but that wasn't the point.
"They all want to learn and make a paycheck," Tom Tallman said.
"They're very hard-working and they're very dedicated," Elaine Tallman said. "A paycheck is very important to them and that job meant everything to her."
Angela is a social butterfly, Tom says, and she enjoys being with her family, including her two older sisters, Lori and Marianne; her brothers-in-law, Michael and Jeremiah; and her nieces and nephews.
That personality trait also explains her favorite part of working at Achieve NY: "Being with my friends."
Special Kneads gives Angela and others a unique opportunity: to earn a paycheck while spending time with friends.
“Since the closure of the Sheltered Workshop, Angela and her friends have been searching for meaningful employment paths," said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo in a statement. “[The farmers market] setting allows her to run her own business but with the necessary support and resources she needs to be successful."
Lupardo was instrumental in coordinating Angela's start-up at the farmers market, Tom Tallman said.
"I just see this as a good opportunity for her and all her friends," he said, because it can be challenging for people like his daughter to find a job.
"It'll give them all that structure," Elaine Tallman said. "The goal is to get them all involved, to get jobs for these challenged citizens."
Right now, it's baby steps, Tom Tallman said.
Three perfectly golden pie crusts over steaming apples and cranberries sit wrapped on the counter in front of a sign that reads "Gifted Sweets by Special Kneads," ready to sell for $5 each at the farmers market.
That's step one.
On Dec. 23, Angela's pies sold out within minutes at the Broome County Regional Farmers Market and she took orders for an additional 85 pies.
"She's a human being like everyone else," Elaine Tallman said. "She deserves the opportunity."
In Stories to Share, reporter Katie Sullivan spends time with the Southern Tier's most fascinating people. She's looking for stories that will make you laugh, cry or be inspired. Know of someone who should be featured? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter @ByKatieSullivan.