SWEET SECOND CHANCES
Do you believe in second chances? Together We Bake does.
At 19, Hannah went in the wrong direction and needed a second chance. She served eight years, 10 months and 14 days in prison. She was 27 when she was finally free.
But it’s hard for women like Hannah to return to society again. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study, only 12.5 percent of employers said they’d accept an application from someone with a criminal record.
“When you come out of prison and go to the halfway house, they still treat you as a prisoner,” she said.
Hannah didn’t enroll in Together We Bake the first time she heard their name.
“I’m not a baker,” she explained.
However, in the halfway house, she met her caseworker, who convinced her to give it a try.
Located in Old Town Alexandria, Va, Together We Bake brings hope to, and builds confidence in, women who were once in their low times. They help women like Hannah. Through providing workforce training and personal development programs, Together We Bake helps their students reenter the workforce.
The baking micro business helps the women learn and participate in food production, food safety education, product packaging, delivery and customer service.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Together We Bake wouldn’t exist without Stephanie Wright and Tricia Sabatini.
“There aren’t many programs for women out there,” Stephanie said. “So we decided to have one.
Tricia and Stephanie came together in 2010 as running partners, but soon found they shared an interest in helping people. They began with participating in charity runs for organizations like Avon and Girls on the Run. While they were training for the Marine Corp Marathon in 2011, the idea of Together We Bake was born.
Tricia had owned a homemade bakery business for more than 10 years. Stephanie had a background in social work. Both were looking to get back into the workforce after having families of their own, but they wanted to make a difference, too. These elements bumped together and eventually led to the establishment of Together We Bake in 2011.
To date, 72 women have graduated the program. Sixty percent are currently employed.
Many women are inspired and transformed through the programs. Hannah is one of them.
Years in prison can leave scars on people’s hearts. Some may fall into dismay and give up on themselves. A 2005 study from the National Institute of Justice, said that within five years of release, about three-quarters of released prisoners were rearrested.
Hannah said she was socially awkward when she was released from prison. By that time, her peers already had jobs or careers, while she seemed to be frozen at a certain age.
She took the advice of her caseworker, and turned over a new leaf. She joined Together We Bake. “[I] guess my perception of people had changed over [the] years. And when I met them, I was like, ‘this is awesome’. And they care so much.”
LESSONS IN HOPE
Sitting around tables, sharing poems about second chances, the women discuss recent moments in their lives where they have been tested. Every day there are new lessons about life, entering the workforce, and, most importantly, giving yourself the second chance others won’t. These lessons are incorporated into baking instruction. Today they are learning how to bake cupcakes. While they wait for the baker to arrive, they sing “Happy Birthday” to one of their instructors. This is a big family indeed.
“What is the most memorable case…?” Stephanie looked to Tricia.
“I think it’s Thelma,” Tricia said.
Both of them nodded.
“[Thelma] is a single mom. Was really quiet and kept pretty much to herself,” Stephanie said.
Thelma hadn’t worked for seven years when she came to Together We Bake. Now she is working as a catering manager and coming back to Together We Bake from time to time to help out.
Hannah graduated in the spring of 2015 and, like Thelma, continues to be a presence. She helps facilitate the program, while also working as a sales and customer service manager outside the organization too.
Hannah wants to encourage women going through the struggles she did.
“I [would] tell them in one word. It’s hope. It’s just that simple,” she said. “You feel hopeless, you feel like everything is over. You feel really small and like a failure. It’s not even like that. If you give yourself a chance, you see hope. You will be able to find hope. And there are people who can give you hope.”
About the Authors: Sarah Nylen and Ariel Chang are interns with the Daily Do Good. Ariel attends National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, and is a part of The Washington Center's internship program. Sarah is a marketing and management student at American University.