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12-Year-Old Inspires Family to Provide Job Opportunities to People With Special Needs

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MENOMONIE (WQOW) -- Donuts can be the perfect way to start your morning, and getting a dozen fried delights while helping support people with special needs can also get your day started on the right foot.

At Donut Sam's in Downtown Menomonie, located on 521 2nd Street East, people with special needs are able to learn critical job skills while actually on-the-job.

"We saw a need for kiddos with special needs," Owner Tanya Husby said.

"Once they graduated high school, where would they go? We wanted to create an atmosphere where young adults could up-skill themselves to be able to be part of our community and citizenship. So we came up with Donut Sam's."

Tanya and husband Mike Husby opened Donut Sam's, named and branded after their 12-year-old son Sam, in March. The same day the governor closed all non-essential business in the state.

Despite this, the couple and their employees said support from the community during the last few months has helped them get their business off the ground.

"Our mission is to serve the community," Donut Decorator Rachel Helland said. "We also do that by giving awareness to those with special needs and having a place where people with special needs can come and work and learn all those skills. It's a really great experience for them and for the community."

Sam and his friend Meredith Kieffer, 23, are two employees with special needs working there. They tell News 18 they love being able to serve their community.

"I like to be here because I love to make donuts and make people happy," Kieffer said.

Their donut decorating skills, Mike Husby said, have caught the eye of both parents and kids around town.

"It's not just the fact that it's motivational," he said. "It's that, 'hey you what? I can do stuff.' I can, right? 'I make boxes, I can help decorate, I can help clean up, I can help sell, I can work the register.' We have kids all the time saying, 'when I'm old enough can I work there?'"

The family has aspirations of collaborating with the local school district to be able to provide internship opportunities to students with special needs so they can come and learn workforce skills while earning school credits.

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Stephanie Rodriguez

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