Baking up a plan to help end homelessness

Sweet Miss Giving’s is a new bakery in Chicago that opened last week to great fanfare. Mayor Daley not only attended the grand opening, he helped cut the ribbon. After all, the city had contributed nearly $100,000 towards its opening–because it’s part social service agency. The bakery, a public-private cooperative venture, is the brainchild of the Rev. Stan Sloan, CEO of Chicago House, which provides community-based support to people who have been marginalized because of HIV and AIDS. With the bakery, the organization is able to provide valuable job training to people like Mary, a former street hustler, and Stanley, an ex-convict who had been homeless since his release from prison.

The bakery hires homeless people with HIV and other disabilities, teaches them to chop, cream, fold, mix, pack, clean, deliver. They cater meetings and events for businesses, peddle wholesale to restaurants and coffee shops, sell gift packs to the public on their Web site (

The proceeds go to Chicago House. And other businesses recognize that the intern bakers are worth hiring.

Another do-gooding utopia destined to fail?

Reverend Stan grinned. It looked like a dare. “Watch us grow.”

The first 13 interns were carefully selected, tested to see if they understood the delicate arithmetic of baking—measuring, fractions—and then trained in hard but simple acts like showing up on time.

“Work is habits,” Stephen said. “We have to teach habits.”

And work is patience. A couple of times Mary, frustrated, has announced, “I quit!”

“No, you don’t,” Reverend Stan says.

“Thank you,” Mary says.

Baking is hard work. Cold refrigerators, hot ovens, hours on your feet.

“I don’t have the best of legs,” Stanley says. He wears support hose for the gout. “But I have the motivation of wanting to do something on my own.”

He wiped his sudden tears. “I cried so much a couple of years ago, you just wouldn’t believe it.”

Now, he said, it feels like making art to him, the way the green zucchini mixes with the orange carrot and the batter turns into bread.

News on the opening from here (the source of the above excerpt) as well as here. The bakery website goes live on Monday, so look for that here.

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