Good People Make the World Go Round

From its birth in August of 2013, Just Bakery has relied on the dedication of thoughtful men and women who donate their time to our cause.  Many of its current employees, including David, Joseph, and Diana, started off as volunteers.  To this day, many aspects of Just Bakery’s classroom training are handled by interns and volunteers.  Interns working towards their degrees in Social Work or Criminal Justice at UW Madison are responsible for handling much of our case management and job skills training.  Volunteers from the Madison Jail Tutors program work with students one-one to hone their math and reading skills.  And often, kind-hearted people from the community who hear about our program call us up just to ask if they can help.  Our response is always: yes!

On a Saturday evening in late June, Just Bakery hosted a modest dinner to honor these many dedicated volunteers past and present.  We decided to make it a potluck event, and to hold the dinner in Just Bakery’s cozy little classroom.  Since the classroom would need to double as a banquet hall for the occasion, Just Bakery’s teaching staff arrived early to give it a makeover.  They unfolded a long table and set it up below the whiteboard to serve as a buffet stand, and arranged the chairs in the formation least likely to block the flow of traffic through the narrow gaps between the three round tables.  Then they set a pitcher of water in the center of each—actually, the pitchers were half-gallon beakers with marks down the side for fluid ounces, which were used in the kitchen to measure liquids for baking.  A nearby mixing bowl served to hold ice that Carmella had brought, and a measuring ladle was used to scoop it into the motley assortment of coffee mugs that would have to serve as water glasses.

As the guests arrived, the hum of conversation grew to a soft rumble as volunteers and employees who had never met each other before shook hands.  Diana cleared her throat, searching unsuccessfully for a polite way to get everyone’s attention without interrupting them.  Carmella had no such qualms.  “Welcome everyone!”  She greeted the guests loudly and warmly, and the buzz of voices died down.  The room finally quiet, Diana took the floor.

“Thank you all for taking the time to be here on a Saturday evening, and for all the time that you have donated—and continue to donate—to this program.”  She shuffled the stack of certificates that had been printed for each volunteer.  “Before we begin our dinner, we would like to express our appreciation for each one of you individually.”

Choosing five minutes worth of words to thank someone for months of service is an impossible task.  As the Just Bakery teaching staff made short speeches about each volunteer, they found themselves wanting to say more—to recognize everything that that person had contributed and to let them know that it had not gone unnoticed.  First Amy, who served as a job skills intern; then Jim, our math tutor and all-purpose handyman; then Bobbie, our resident ray of sunshine; then Sammy, a former case management and job skills intern; and finally Jolene, our all-round helpful intern; all rose to accept their certificates.  Each of them stood out for their giving, generous natures and their dedication to the success of our students.

It had been an emotional start to the evening—and now it was time to relieve those emotions by eating dinner.  Jackie brought a beautifully blue salad: blueberries and blue cheese, tossed with Romaine lettuce and chopped bell peppers.  Carmella had grilled up some mouthwatering rosemary chicken.  Diana’s husband had made a flavorful pinto-bean-and-cactus soup, served with corn tortillas that he heated on a flat-top grill as the guests ate.  And of course, Ken the kitchen manager provided the dessert: a platter full of Just Bakery’s rich chocolate brownies and M&M bars.  Diana’s one-and-a-half-year-old son took one look at the trayful of dessert and immediately burst into tears: his way of expressing his powerful, urgent need for chocolate.

A gift of brownies and soup can’t possibly equal all the time and care that our volunteers have dedicated; but, we are a bakery, so we use food to express our emotions.  It  definitely got the message across.  A dessert is worth a thousand words: and the brownies said Thank You a thousand times.

…by Diana G…


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