2023 Nassau BOCES Education Partner Award Honoree

Special Sweets, A Special Place for Me

Special Sweets, A Special Place for Me

Delia Patricia Castrogiovanni, Co-Founder

The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is more than 80 percent — a statistic that Special Sweets aims to change, in accordance with their slogan, “We Flour To Empower.” Special Sweets is a not-for-profit bakery whose mission is to “enrich and empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reach their highest potential through viable work and social opportunities.”

The bakery is the creation of Delia Patricia Castrogiovanni (Patty) and Debbie Canell, a pair of retired special educators from the Carle Place UFSD. After working with the same class of special needs students from kindergarten to graduation, the teacher aides and their students had come to be something of a family. After their retirement, the two educators had an idea to reunite that family.

Building on their students’ love for baking, cultivated during their Life Skills classes, Ms. Castrogiovanni and Ms. Canell established the cupcakery in Ms. Castrogiovanni’s Westbury kitchen. They invited their former students to join them in their burgeoning cottage industry, and upon gaining licensure from New York State, Special Sweets was born.

This past August, Nassau BOCES welcomed Special Sweets to the Farber Administrative Center in Garden City, giving them access to a fully functional commercial kitchen and cafeteria. In addition to the upgrade in facilities, the collaboration with Nassau BOCES partnered Special Sweets with special education and culinary arts students in baking training as part of the agency’s workforce development program.

“We have been together for over 15 years and have truly become a family,” Ms. Castrogiovanni said of her Special Sweets collaborators. “We believe that all individuals have a purpose in life, regardless of their abilities. We also believe that everyone has the right and the desire to be a productive member in their community.”