Dignity, independence, a sense of purpose, and hope. That’s what the DISH Foundation, a Bellingham-based nonprofit, offers to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). I had the opportunity to chat with founder Suzanne Taylor about the DISH Foundation and a new venture called Our Kitchen, which sells food prepared by DISH employees. Plans are also underway for brick-and-mortar café, set to open in fall of 2021. The café will partner with DISH to employ individuals with IDD, combining delicious homestyle menu items with a unique experience that promotes inclusivity. 

What was the motivation behind starting the DISH Foundation? 

The motivation behind starting the DISH Foundation was to create a future for my son and others like him — individuals with IDD. The idea for the DISH Foundation began a couple years ago, when my son was cooking with me in the kitchen. In his own way, he asked if he could be a chef when he grows up. I told him of course he could! He excitedly told his sister and his dad that he was going to be a chef for a living. The DISH Foundation helps IDD individuals find consistent employment, works with their different learning models/speeds, and allows them to make positive contributions to their community. 

Can you describe what a day looks like for an individual who works/is employed with DISH? 

A day can look different depending on the job and the ability of the individual working. There is a wide spectrum of abilities in IDD or special needs individuals — many are quite capable, and they simply need opportunities for work. Because of this, we put our staff into positions that meet their skill level, and provide ongoing training and internship opportunities for growth. Once our cafe opens, job coaches and support partners will help staff members learn roles like greeter, cashier, baker, and more. 

How are plans shaping up for the new café? 

Although the pandemic has created some obstacles, we’ve been creative and stayed committed to providing opportunities. Finding an affordable retail space or permanent commercial kitchen is our biggest challenge. We need a place that is affordable, local to Bellingham, large enough for the equipment and people, and accessible via bus for our individuals who are unable to drive themselves.  

We recently created a new entity called Our Kitchen with the sole purpose of working specifically with the DISH Foundation. Our Kitchen sells and distributes the products made by DISH employees and volunteers. I’d encourage businesses or individuals to order online and treat your co-workers or families! Popular items you can order include soft pretzels, Taquitos, cookies, and more – vegan and gluten-free options are available too! 

What are you most excited for about the DISH Foundation’s future? 

I am extremely excited about what we’ve already achieved: seeing the pride and excitement on these individual’s faces the moment they feel Dignity, Independence, a Sense of Purpose, and Hope — the four tenets that make up our namesake. I am also so excited for the day we officially open the new cafe; it will be a dream come true for me and so many families and individuals with IDD. That will be a beautiful day! 

What are the best ways for community members to become involved in helping with the DISH Foundation?

There are many ways the community can get involved! Food orders placed through the Our Kitchen website allows us to provide training or employment to individuals with IDD. We are also taking applications for Volunteers/Support Partners — we can always use more help as we train, teach, and employ our IDD staff members. Financial support is also helpful, and if you have an available commercial or kitchen space — or know someone who has a space we can use — please reach out! 

DISH Foundation:127 Polo Park Dr., Bellingham, 360.303.3098, dishfoundation.net  

Our Kitchen: 360.922.6710, ourkitchenbellingham.com

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