PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - A Portland bakery just opened its first brick-and-mortar location.

But aside from its sweets, Sarah Bellum’s Bakery, located at 7828 SW Capitol Highway, wants to be known for shining on a light on an important issue: living with a brain injury.

With every scoop, stir and sprinkle, the bakery is doing much more than serving up sensational sweets.

Behind every cupcake–whether gluten-free, vegan or pet-friendly–is an even sweeter sentiment.

“This is the environment where it is safe and it’s okay if I forget something or get confused,” Leslie Petcher, a volunteer, said. It’s a safe place to learn things and just be me.”

Petcher is one of many volunteers at Sarah Bellum’s Bakery. The non-profit has a playful name, but almost everyone at the store has gone through tough times.

“Everybody here may look different or act different,” Petcher said. ‘But we all have acquired brain injuries and we all struggle with similar things. We have a bond that others without head injuries may not understand.”

After suffering six strokes, life has changed for Petcher. She now spends her free time working as a cashier Sarah Bellum’s Bakery, a major change of pace from her previous job.

“Before my strokes, I was working as a project manager for federal grants for IT companies, very fast-paced, responsible,” Petcher said.

Now, she knows that simply isn’t an option.

“I just don’t have the brain skills yet to handle what I used to do,” Petcher said. “This is a great speed for me to learn multiple things and new skills and put them all together.”

The bakery is the brainchild of Doctor Rik Lemoncello, a professor at Pacific University.

“Part of what we do is advocacy, but we also train people who want to get back to work, and they’ll be able to do so, hopefully, and creating community,” Faith Walmer, the bakery’s outreach director and manager, said.

For Leslie and many others, the bakery is a place to find support, structure and delicious baked goods.

“I think for all of us, it’s important to experience that we are a contribution, whatever that is to be … because that’s really important as a human being to experience that your life matters.”

Until now, the bakery’s cupcakes were only sold once a week at a farmer’s market.

The store is open Thursday through Sunday.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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