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Langdon bakery honored for work with disabled employees

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Langdon, ND (WDAZ TV) - Some of us can't stand our boss, but a Langdon, North Dakota man is calling his boss his guardian angel.

He was given a chance to prove that you can make it in life, despite living with a disability.

The employer is now being honored by the state for giving people an opportunity they may not find elsewhere.

It's a busy morning at the Bread Pan bakery in Langdon.

Clinton Klein/Customer: “It's a friendly place. People are nice, and it's a win of a bakery.” 

Owner Jim Balk has been slingin’ dough for more than 40 years. He brought his business to town 25 years ago.

Jim Balk/Owner, Bread Pan: “Knew it would be a nice place to live.”

In that time, many of employees have come through the door, including Mark Abney, hired six months ago.

Mark Abney/Employee, Bread Pan: “I love it. I'm learning a lot of stuff I didn't know about baking.”

Mark is disabled. He suffered a brain injury as a child, and has had difficulties learning ever since. But he's quickly become one of Balk's most trusted employees.

Balk says, “He has a key to the place. He comes in and fries the donuts in the morning so I can sleep in a little bit.”

Abney adds, “He's training me little by little. I'm not perfect at it. He got 40 years on me and I got only six months. But I'm learning, though.”

Balk has hired employees with disabilities for 30 years. In September, his bakery was named the 2015 North Dakota Department of Vocational Rehab Employer of the Year. He says employees with disabilities have always been good workers, and more importantly, kind and genuine people to be around.

Abney says, “Glad we won it. He deserves more than that.”

Abney says he loves working at the bakery and learning new skills. He says he's the man he is today because of the opportunity given to him by the bakery's owners.

He adds, “He could have hired me and said "No, I can't work with you", but he didn't.”

That generosity is well known among the regulars at the local hot spot.

Father Phil Ackerman/Customer: “The thing that I really appreciate so much is the fact that he takes care of people with special needs to give them jobs and opportunities.”

It's about more than providing a job. It's about providing a chance to shine in an often unforgiving world.

“I've been called stupid. It doesn't bug me because I'm proving to everybody you can't keep me down and you're not keeping me down. I'm a happy person, and I love learning to do stuff”, says Abney.

Adam Ladwig

Adam Ladwig joined WDAZ as the Devils Lake bureau reporter in January, 2012. Prior to that he reported for KDUH-TV in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Adam has won multiple awards during his time at WDAZ, including an Eric Sevareid award and a Regional Emmy Award as part of team coverage during the search for Anthony Kuznia.  A Colorado native, Adam graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Journalism. He misses the Rocky Mountains, but the kind people of North Dakota more than make up for that. He is thrilled to be in the Lake Region, telling stories that matter. In his spare time, Adam is usually futilely attempting to get in shape, or cheering for his beloved Denver Broncos.