Lee Booth moved to St. Louis Center when he was eight years old. After he completed school at the age of 26, he began attending the work programs offered by the county. Lee really wanted to have a job and earn a paycheck, just like some of his housemates. After trying a few places, Lee finally found a job that he loved: washing dishes at the local Big Boy restaurant. Unfortunately for them both, the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered the doors to Big Boy and thus Lee’s job.

After things started to re-open, Karin Brandt, St. Louis Center Social Services Specialist, started to help Lee look for other opportunities. Lee’s mother, Christine Okler, was hopeful. She had worked in the employment industry and kept her eyes peeled for opportunities for her son.

Keegan Rodgers had a lifelong dream of owning his own bakery that stemmed from baking cookies with his grandmother. In 2010 he graduated with honors from the Culinary Baking and Pastry Arts Program at Schoolcraft College. Many accolades later, he purchased a bakery in Chelsea! His lifelong dream had become a reality.

Keegan’s business was growing and thriving. Then came 2020. Keegan knew he needed to keep baking to not only provide for himself but also his loyal employees. The bakery never closed throughout the pandemic even when Keegan had to spend a week in the hospital due to an illness. His perseverant staff helped keep him afloat.

Keegan also knew that he wanted to give opportunities to persons with disabilities. Thanks to Dick Dice, a member of the Chelsea Rotary Club and Saturday Morning Challengers volunteer, Keegan was introduced to Lee. Now Lee works side-by- side with Keegan assisting with dishes and clean-up around the bakery.

This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of St. Louis Spirit newsletter.

You can read it online or download the issue in its entirety here.

Perseverance is a perfect word to describe what happens every day at St. Louis Center, where residents with I/DD learn and grow while overcoming challenges that stand in their way.
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