Travel with Terri
Greyston Bakery: Brownies and so much more
By Terri Marshall
Earlier this year I received an invitation to visit Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream headquarters in Burlington, Vermont – an offer too delicious to refuse. I was one of just five writers included in the event which took us on a behind the scenes tour of operations at Ben & Jerry’s factory and offices. We sampled ice cream right off the line, earned our “scooping degrees” at Scoop University, developed a trial flavor with the research and development team, discussed marketing campaigns and even had a surprise visit from ice cream legends – Ben and Jerry! I knew the trip would be fun and informative but what I did not know is that it would lead me to another very special place just a few miles up the road from my apartment in New York City.
You see, in addition to making really good ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s social mission is an integral part of all they do. It is that social mission that led them to partner with Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York – the sole supplier of all of those yummy brownie chunks found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Greyston’s motto is “We don’t hire people to bake brownies; we bake brownies to hire people.” Please join me this month for a detour from my usual tales of travel to visit Yonkers and learn about this very special bakery. You might find yourself a souvenir full of inspiration – I did.
Founded in 1982 by a Zen Buddhist meditation group led by Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, a former aerospace engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit and a bold vision, Greyston’s original goal – to produce quality, locally made products that would give the group a sustainable, satisfying livelihood – soon inspired the creation of a socially responsible business extending opportunity to others.
Greyston Bakery was started for the purpose of creating jobs for people who where considered to be unemployable by customary businesses. People like Drew who sat down with me recently to share his story. Drew grew up in an economically and socially disadvantaged section of Yonkers and eventually traveled down a dangerous path selling drugs to make money. He was ultimately arrested, convicted of a felony and served a four year prison term. While in prison, Drew knew he had to make a change in his life or he would end up back on the streets and eventually back in prison.
As a convicted felon, when Drew was released from prison no one would hire him until a friend reminded him about Greyston Bakery. He went into the office and signed his name on the clipboard that is left out every day for people to sign up if they are interested in working at Greyston. Drew began working for Greyston Bakery as all employees do by starting with the apprentice program. During this time work skills are taught to the employees and trust is developed. Drew completed the apprentice program and has since moved up in the company to a supervisor position. He has also found a very special woman in his life, he became a father of a precious baby girl and has learned to manage his finances and focus on the future – a legal future. Tears came to my eyes and Drew’s when he looked at me and said, “Every time I visit my mother she tells me she is so very proud of me.” The path for Drew’s family has been forever changed and he is saving money to be sure his daughter will have financial independence and an education when she grows up.
Greyston Bakery recently partnered with Whole Planet Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Whole Foods Market to fund micro credit in developing-world communities where the company sources products. In May 2012, Whole Food Market stores from Maine to Virginia began offering Greyston Bakery’s Chocolate Fudge Walnut Brownie and Brown Sugar Blondie brownies with two percent of the profits going to Whole Planet Foundation. The brownies will be offered in additional Whole Food Store locations as the year progresses.
Greyston Bakery’s sole shareholder is Greyston Foundation – an entrepreneurial and spiritually-grounded organization that operates an integrated network of not-for profit and for-profit companies. Greyston Foundation is the umbrella organization that coordinates and supports all the programs that comprise the Greyston services.
Greyston Family Services provides permanent housing for formerly homeless and low-income families and offers counseling, childcare, after-school programs, workforce development and job placement. Greyston Affordable Housing also provides affordable housing for low-income families as well as seniors and artists. Greyston Health Services provides healthcare and education to people living with HIV/AIDS. Greyston also sponsors six community gardens which engage thousands of local residents annually through garden maintenance, classroom education and community events.
Through Greyston’s Pathmaking Services employees are given opportunities for personal and professional development. Men’s and women’s groups meet regularly to discuss everything from how to cook healthy meals for a family to how to open a bank account and manage personal finances. Educational opportunities are also available whereby workers can obtain their GED and go on to higher education if that is the path they choose.
Wendy’s story provides the perfect example of the benefit of Greyston’s Pathmaking Services. Arriving at Greyston in 1994, Wendy was a homeless single parent seeking shelter. She also found a job and the will to succeed. She was hired as a part-time bookkeeper for the childcare center the Foundation operated at the same site where they gave her housing. Five years later, after several raises and promotions, she became the assistant to the Bakery’s general manager. By 2002, Wendy had earned her B.A. in corporate communications, learned to drive, rented an apartment and become instrumental in the Bakery’s Apprentice Program. Wendy credits the leader of a Bakery women’s group for providing the last key to self-sufficiency: a practical understanding of personal finance. Wendy’s path led her to move south and start a new job in 2005.
Greyston provides the first step on the path to a new life. Drew and Wendy are living examples of this as well as many others who have walked through the doors of Greyston Bakery. Theirs are stories of inspiration, of second chances and changed lives. Stories of hope. Stories made possible by baking brownies. www.greystonbakery.com
Terri is a freelance writer with regular columns on travel, chocolate and bar reviews. She is busy each month visiting new places to bring unique travel destinations and events to you. Yes, it is a sacrifice – but she is willing to do that for her readers! You can see more of Terri’s writing at www.examiner.com where she is the National Chocolate Examiner and at www.barzz.net. You can contact Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org.