Tag Archives: volunteering

Kindness Matters: House of Bread

To break bread is probably one of the oldest human traditions that continues to ignite the spirit of sharing. In the Christian faith, it is symbolic of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. To make bread is the activity that unites women who are participating in job training sessions offered by the House of Bread, a new non-profit in Roanoke.

The House of Bread was created in January 2017 to help formerly incarcerated women gain skills to strengthen their confidence and hope. Over the course of a six-week session, women learn new skills through hands on training in the Local Environmental Agricultural Project Kitchen (LEAP kitchen located in the West End) and gain spiritual development while baking and selling bread alongside volunteers from the community.

In addition to learning basic kitchen and baking skills, the women in the program receive ServSafe food handler training, develop marketing and customer service skills, and partner one-on-one with mentors who shepherd them through a job search and resume building process. The students are given a $50 weekly educational stipend and are expected to attend a weekly class and sell bread with the organization once a week. They meet weekly with their mentors. Each session culminates with the ServSafe certification exam and a mock interview clinic where students practice their interviewing skills and receive feedback. The first clinic was staffed by attorneys, business leaders, and people in the restaurant industry.

The inaugural session kicked off in October 2017. Most of the first session’s participants were chosen through Transitional Options for Women or Total Action for Progress. Six women began the program, and four graduated, all with ServSafe certifications. Alongside women from the community, the students learned how to bake a variety of breads and sold over 350 loaves, often selling out in an hour.

What was the recipe for this success? The baking skills honed at home and shared in the LEAP kitchen by Lisa Goad (co-founder), the organizational finesse of former teacher and current seminary student Jordan Hertz (co-founder), and the vision of licensed professional counselor and seminary student Jen Brothers (co-founder). Sprinkle in a handful of motivated students, passionate volunteers and mentors, wide-ranging community support, and generous funding from church grants and private donations, and House of Bread was born.

Brothers realistically anticipated some attrition, and it did happen in the case of one student, who relapsed after finding herself in an unsafe living situation. Her mentor did not give up, saying she wouldn’t leave her until she was ready to stand on her own two feet. She connected her mentee with resources to help her regain her footing and start a new job.

Currently in its second session, the House of Bread has big projects on the rise.   Transitional Options for Women, a recent recipient of a Roanoke Women’s Foundation grant, will open a coffee shop this January on 13th Ave. It will be staffed by TOFW residents and House of Bread graduates. A former HOB student and current House Manager at TOFW will manage the shop. HOB plans to rent a space beside the coffee shop to host meetings, hold interviews, and allow for greater connectivity to the neighborhood and its residents.

Brothers wants to hold the graduates together in community and is currently working on organizing weekly “soup nights” where program graduates, volunteers, and friends come together to break bread and share in storytelling and prayers, with local ministers presiding over a simple round table Communion service.

House of Bread fills a unique niche in our community, offering hope to those who may have lost it along the way and the tools to rebuild a life and become a healthy and productive citizen. It also allows for the formation of friendships across neighborhood and socio-economic divides. House of Bread actively seeks volunteers, donations, and customers. To learn more about House of Bread please visit www.houseofbreadroanoke.com.

Written by Kate Ericsson

 

Giving Back: Matthew’s Child

Matthew’s Child opened their doors in 2013 with the goal to help create happy kids and foster healthy relationships in the foster and adoptive community. Husband and wife team, Jesse and Melanie Couch, saw a need for support for foster families in the area. Their first-hand experience as foster parents and their relationship with the community helped them create programs that tailor to specific areas like first night meals, survival kits to meet basic needs, hygiene kits, car seats, clothing, and more.

“There is this false stereotype that the government pays you to be a foster parent and takes care of you. While there is a small monthly stipend, it doesn’t cover the full physical needs of the child,” Melanie says. “It’s definitely something that, when you choose to be a foster parent, you are expected to be able to provide for that child. We’re not talking about just the physical things, we’re talking about meeting their emotional needs and the support needs of the families so they don’t get burned out. [They need to be] able to find the resources they need so they are able to take care of that child. It takes a lot, so these families need a lot of support. Foster care can be on the fringe of society, so sometimes you don’t think about that need being here in your own backyard.”

To help foster families meet their needs, Matthew’s Child partners with psychologists and different local specialists to set up training for foster families and parents. Available trainings include, but are not limited to, ethnic hair care, biological family engagement, and independent living for teens. For those interested in becoming a member of a foster child’s team, they offer a course on working as a team member that includes information on the role of the foster parent, biological family engagement, the role of a caseworker, the role of the community, and the court process.

“It takes a village to raise a child, whether it’s teachers, volunteers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, CASA volunteers, special advocates, down to the Grandin Theatre across the street hiring teenagers who need experience,” Melanie explains. “Not everyone can be a parent, but everyone can offer support.”

With the holidays right around the corner, it is important to remember to help those out who might be experiencing a difficult year. If you can’t foster a child, consider donating gently used clothing and toys, or travel-sized hygiene products for the first night in foster care. Matthew’s Child is also accepting volunteers in any capacity.

If you are interested in helping out with foster care, or if you’d like to learn more about how Matthew’s Child can help your family, visit www.matthewschild.com or call 540-523-1580.