New North Idaho bakery will employ, support people with disabilities

Ashley Jakubowski gracefully placed mesmerizing swirls of color all over a tiered cake Monday morning. Pastry Chef Dana Bellefeuille carefully guided and encouraged the 18-year-old as she worked.

Bellefeuille wasn’t surprised to see Jakubowski’s talent, despite her age. The young woman from Texas has been dreaming of a career as a pastry chef for years. That’s why she flew to North Idaho to spend a week with Bellefeuille.

“I knew that just given the opportunity to shine that she would,” Bellefeuille said.

That was high praise coming from a chef with more than a decade of experience. She’s worked in kitchens with chefs that many know from The Food Network. Bellefeuille steadily grew her own reputation across the region, even making cakes for the Space Needle, in Seattle.

But, nothing in her past is as important as what she has planned for the future. She wants to open a new bakery in North Idaho that employs and supports people with disabilities.

“She is the definition of sunshine and rainbows, and she is the most patient person I have ever met,” Jakubowski said.

The chef can see beyond stereotypes.

Jakubowski is grateful for that as someone who has cerebral palsy. The condition affect’s her ability to move.

“I really struggle with, like, moving around, carrying stuff. The piping I was really nervous about, but we figured out a way to do it,” Jakubowski said.

That can-do attitude is what Chef Bellefeuille will bring to her new bakery. She plans to call it The Village Bakery. The name represents the true power of community.

She envisions the business as a place where people of all abilities come to gain life-skills, connect with each other, and enjoy a delicious treat.

There will be positions tailored to each person’s ability and talents, from baking to managing money.

Bellefeuille tried to hold back tears as she explained how much this is needed in the community.

“It really gets you, because it’s needed in our community. It really is,” Bellefeuille said.

She noted that some businesses hire people with disabilities, and she’s grateful they do. Bellefeuille wants to inspire more of that and build on partnerships, with groups like Project SEARCH CDA and Tesh, Inc.

“If I could reach out and say anything, it would be to inspire other business owners to take a look at this community,” Bellefeuille said. “These will be the most loyal employees you will ever have that will be with you for 30 plus years and will do anything for you.”

Bellefeuille knows that because her children have their own disabilities and unique skills. Her new bakery could be the key ingredient to make sure other kids have a place they feel accepted and valued.

“She’s already touching so many people and making such a huge difference for this community,” Jakubowski said.

Bellefeuille already has the plans for the bakery, now she needs a place for it to go. Find more information about her mission and how to send location suggestions to her by going to this page.