Reprinted as appeared on the cover of
The Northeast Journal
photos and story by Rob
Baynard, Editor-at-Large of DowntownSaintPete.com
“This is all starting right here in St. Petersburg,”
said Barry Torman, board member of Casey’s Cookies, a St. Petersburg, Fla.
501c(3) not-for-profit corporation.
Casey’s Cookies was formed out of a need that St.
Petersburg entrepreneurs Barry and Lori Torman saw developing right in their own
home. The Torman’s daughter, Casey Torman, was born
with a congenital birth defect known as
Goldenhar Syndrome. She is also hearing impaired and
has had nine surgeries to correct the curvatures in her spine. Despite all this,
she has an ever-present smile, a desire to help others, and like everyone, a
love for great cookies.
For many developmentally disabled young adults, life
after high school doesn’t provide many opportunities. There are countless
programs designed to help usher disabled children through adolescence. But what
happens next in their adult lives remains of little focus for social programs.
Casey Torman, the face of Casey’s Cookies,
graduated from the special diploma program at Gibbs High School in the summer of
2010. While Casey was approaching graduation, the Tormans reached out to
special education teacher Cherry Correa, who had helped mentor Casey and whom
they respected. Like any other parent whose child is graduating from
high school, the Tormans wanted to know what options their daughter had for the
future. Unfortunately as they would learn from Correa and the world around them,
developmentally disabled adults have few choices, and even fewer opportunities
after leaving school.
“I wanted to offer them more,” said Cherry Correa, a
former special education teacher and current executive director of Casey’s
Cookies. “For me it was very frustrating seeing my kids graduate after four
years,” especially knowing that society didn’t provide many options for
developmentally disabled adults. "In reality it wasn’t anything that I could say: Good,
you’re going to get enough skills to go out there and be on your own,” said
Correa. Barry and Lori Torman formed Casey’s Cookies to try to respond to this
need. They are using their entrepreneurial spirit, business knowledge and
resources to create a business model that will benefit and sustain an often
overlooked and marginalized population.
Barry Torman said the goal of Casey’s Cookies is to
“train and employ developmentally disabled young adults, and even older adults,
so that we can improve their quality of life and be able to give them a reason
to get up and get going everyday.” The Tormans launched Casey’s Cookies in the
hopes that it could serve as a model for other communities around the country
facing the same needs. The focus is on providing an economic future for
developmentally disabled young adults, especially as they transition out of
special education programs into adulthood. Unlike other organizations that rely heavily on public
and private funding, Casey’s Cookies seeks to support its benevolent operations
through the sale of premium quality cookies. This will enable developmentally
disabled adults to learn specific job skills and earn a sustainable income that
gives them a sense of achievement and independence, a feeling that resonates
with anyone who has ever held a paycheck.
“This is the first one that we know of that’s been
done, anywhere,” said Barry Torman. “This is, I think, an opportunity for a
model to be created that will come out of St. Pete; that’s ultimately going to
serve communities all over the county. This is going to be something that we can
all be ultimately proud of as a community.”
Casey’s Cookies is
starting small but realistic. They have rented a commercial kitchen and gone
through all the necessary Florida licensing and health-safety requirements, in
order to sell cookies commercially to buyers. The first year will include four
developmentally disabled employees working under the direction and supervision
of Executive Director Cherry Correa, who will also help coordinate the many
volunteers needed in order to make Casey’s Cookies a success. They hope within a
few years to have increased their menu offerings, acquire their own kitchen, and
begin to look for a residential facility in close proximity to the kitchen where
employees can live and work with ease.
The Tormans have established a website for
Casey’s Cookies (www.caseyscookies.org)
that will serve as a major source of the cookie orders for individual consumers.
Casey’s Cookies will also be relying on corporate sales to provide a steady
stream of standing orders that will keep its operations going. They are in the
process of applying to St. Petersburg’s Saturday Morning Market and hope to have
many scheduled selling days where they sell cookies to the public.
“These are cookies with a cause, if you will,” Barry
Torman said. “These are cookies that could actually accomplish something.” Instead of local businesses ordering their treats from
franchised, for-profit companies, they can impress their clients and employees
by showing that they care about giving back to the community. Having Casey’s Cookies in their reception area or
conference room can help improve their image with customers or clients, while at
the same time contributing to a unique business that tackles special need in an
innovative way. But don’t forget how good the cookies are!
All of Casey’s Cookies are made with special
ingredients and delivered or shipped on the same day they’re baked. “We really
wanted to select and make cookies that most people would consider
premium-quality cookies,” said Barry Torman.
They currently have a menu of four choices that will
expand in the future, which includes chocolate chip, maple, cinnamon chip
oatmeal, and a sugar cookie. “Each cookie has its own unique ingredient,” said
Correa. “The sugar has the cake batter. The oatmeal has the cinnamon chips.
You can feel the chips in there. The chocolate chip has Ghiradelli chocolate, and the maple has
an amazing maple flavoring.”
As your mouth continues to salivate and you think
about ordering from Casey’s Cookies, remember that this is a community effort.
It’s the individuals and businesses in the community that will help realize this
dream for the Tormans and help establish a model for developmentally disabled
adults elsewhere in the world. When planning your next party, conference, or
holiday gathering, wouldn’t it be better to order from Casey’s Cookies rather
than contributing more to corporate coffers? Ditch the franchise and go local.
“When you taste the cookies, and you taste the
special ingredients in each cookie, you can tell there’s a difference. These are very different and unique
cookies,” said Correa. “I think it’s a product prepared with a lot of love.”
Volunteers will always be needed and can help
with transportation, supervision, packaging, and deliveries. The Tormans have
set up a system that will allow volunteers to schedule their time through a
website. That system will also email them when other opportunities come
available. For more information on how to contribute to Casey’s Cookies, or to
place your cookie orders, please
call Casey’s Cookies at (727) 388-4150, or email them at