November 29, 2017 |The Hour


WILTON — Pamela Graham doesn’t like to see food go to waste — especially if that food comes from her own bakery.

“I think there are people hungry everywhere and, if you have food, you should never throw it away,” Graham said. “ I just don’t believe in hunger.”

And so, soon after she opened The Pastry Hideaway in May, she decided to donate any leftover food to Person-to-Person, a nonprofit with sites in Norwalk and Darien that provide food, clothing and other basic services to lower-income individuals and families in lower Fairfield County.


But Graham doesn’t get this job done alone.

Every Monday and Wednesday, she finds help from a few members of Abilis’ new life skills program at Trackside Teen Center. Through Abilis — a Greenwich-based nonprofit that provides supports and services to more than 700 individuals with special needs in lower Fairfield County — adults with special needs are given opportunities to develop skills to be competitively employed and to live more independent and socially connected lives.

And Graham believes in this mission, and because of it, she’s come to build meaningful relationships with those who access services from Abilis.

“I see these guys every week, and I give them a hug every day,” Graham said. “And I’m looking forward to that.”

One of them is Max Wolpo.

On Wednesday, he cheerfully carried a box of freshly baked scones and focaccia bread to the Abilis van alongside his friend Steven and Matthew Miceli, the coordinator of Abilis’ programs in Wilton, Westport and Stamford.

The trio’s food rescue routine every week starts with The Pastry Hideaway and continues with Starbucks on Main Avenue in Norwalk. Then, the group eats lunch at Trackside before they drop off the rescued food to Person-to-Person in Norwalk. They also pick up food from Walter Stewarts Market in New Canaan for the Wilton Food Pantry and help out with Meals on Wheels in Norwalk.

After every pick-up and delivery, Wolpo feels satisfied.

“I feel great,” Wolpo said with a smile, “because I like doing the job very well and I get to work for it.”

Over the last year-and-a-half, Abilis has built a number of partnerships with local businesses and organizations, Miceli said. This aligns with the nonprofit’s overall mission of enriching the lives of those with special needs in a way that helps them become a part of the community they live in, he added.

“We want everybody be involved in the community and not sheltered,” Miceli said. “They can do a lot if they’re given the right opportunity, and some places like The Pastry Hideaway have been great to us. And that’s what we’re trying to do — get more job sites and grow our different programs.

Since the life skills program opened at Trackside in October, the client list has been growing steadily, Miceli said. Some are waiting for funding from the state while others are phasing out of different programs.

“And I think it’s going to get better as we get more people on the site on a daily basis,” Miceli said.