By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A baker in western Wisconsin hopes she has the recipe for helping workers with special needs to find success. Melissa ‘Mei Mei’ Abdouch is building a bakery in River Falls. Later this summer, “Mei Mei’s Cookies and Creamery” will open. But she needs help finishing her bakery first. There’s a special reason behind her drive

After her day job was outsourced, Mei Mei cooked up a new dream.

“I found myself in the kitchen baking cookies and I thought why don’t I just do this every day? so Mei Mei’s Cookies came to fruition,” Abdouch said.
Early in life Mei Mei found a way to overcome obstacles and create something from scratch.

“When I was two I had stage four neuroblastoma and my parents were told I was not going to survive. They didn’t take that answer, went through treatment and I’m a survivor. I graduated high school, I served in the military, I have a bachelor’s degree in business,” Abdoch said.

That resiliency she learned early in life pushed her to give back, and reach higher, not only for herself, but for her daughter, 21-year-old Alex, who has autism.

“And so what’s next for her? She really wants to be employed we really want her to be employed but we know how difficult it is to find a safe environment that also offers her challenges above sweeping floors,” Abdouch said.

The kitchen was a place they connected. Alex will be Mei Mei’s first employee. And she plans to establish a special needs gainful employment program for her daughter’s peers.

“I want individuals like my daughter to understand that they are part of the community just like everyone else. They have abilities, not disabilities,” Abdouch said.

Abdouch took out two loans and contributed her own money to see this dream through. But she needs to raise another $12,000 by 11 p.m. Friday to close the funding gap.

Anyone who contributes to the Kickstarter campaign gets their name on the founders wall, and depending on the amount, receives cookies, ice cream and more.

Jennifer Mayerle