Looking for a new spot to grab coffee in Spokane? Try New Leaf Bakery. A place where not only can you enjoy coffee and delicious pastries, you can do so while supporting Transitions, a non-profit organization supporting women by providing job training. New Leaf Bakery just happens to be a Women Helping Women Fund grant recipient, and we could not be more proud of what they’ve accomplished!
When I arrived at New Leaf Bakery last week, I was greeted with a warm welcome from the program director of over 7 years, Jamie Borgan. New Leaf Bakery is part of a larger organization, Transitions, which includes six programs benefitting the Spokane community.
(pictured above: Jamie Borgan, program director, New Leaf Bakery)
New Leaf Bakery is a hands-on, supportive job-training program for women looking to learn personal and professional skills necessary to reintegrate into the work force. The 6-month, free-of-cost training program is offered in a commercial kitchen which provides catering services and barista training. Participants can also work with a vocational specialist to help them create a resume, practice interview skills, and become fully prepared to enter the work force. Last year, 80% of participants went on to school or employment after the program.
Jamie’s commitment to seeing this program flourish was apparent during my visit. When asked what her favorite part of her job is, she replied, “New Leaf focuses on self-sufficiency. I love seeing women leave our program with the skills necessary to succeed in life.” When she started as program director in 2011, 10-15 women participated in the training program yearly. Now, over 50 women participate yearly. New Leaf has expanded in multiple areas, including the amount of bakeries they work with, and overall production. New Leaf is committed to alumni by offering long-lasting support for months or even years after participants leave the program.
A typical day for participants at New Leaf Bakery starts bright and early at 7:30 AM. Set-up and prep comes first. Then, the team gets together to collaborate on what the day holds. Women are encouraged to choose what they want to work on each day, giving them ownership over their tasks. New Leaf values individualized ways of listening to their participants to create personalized plans based on each women’s skills and interests. “We don’t want to ever start focusing solely on production. We want to make sure we keep our mission at the heart of what we do and ensure that our participants are getting the most out of the program by learning the skills that they want to learn.” -Jamie Borgan
New Leaf Bakery is open to the public the first Wednesday of every month from 11 AM-1 PM for lunch and a bake sale. While visiting the New Leaf kitchen, I saw (and smelled) several delicious pastries being made, coffee being brewed, and a lot hard-working women who were passionate about their work. I asked one woman working, “What do you like most about working here at New Leaf?” and she replied, “I love that everything I bake goes out to the community.” New Leaf gives participants a sense of accomplishment that motivates them to work hard throughout the program. “We celebrate all kids of successes, small and large, at New Leaf, sometimes it’s someone successfully completing a recipe on their own or being able to ask for assistance for the first time.”
A few years ago, a woman began the New Leaf Bakery program at age 51. She had been in an abusive marriage for over 20 years and was in the process of divorcing her spouse. Though she had many skills, she had never had employment outside of the home and came to New Leaf to acquire skills. At the time, she was also experiencing homelessness. Due to repeated threats from her ex-husband, she was forced to flee the state to live with her daughter.
A couple months passed, and she returned to Spokane, hoping to finish the program at New Leaf. She was still homeless, living in her truck or spending nights at the shelter. She spent several months in the cooking program learning baking skills. She received help prepping her resume, practicing interview skills, and learning how to use a computer. After 4 months in the program, she interviewed for a maintenance position at a church and got the job. New Leaf staff worked with her to apply for and receive a Section 8 voucher so that she could find safe and stable housing. She has successfully maintained her job and her housing ever since (for the first time in her life!) for nearly two years.
Want to plan a visit or make an impact at New Leaf Bakery? There are several ways to do so:
- Donate white aprons, white t-shirts or other items from their wish list.
- Grab a coffee at the New Leaf Café, located at 5th Ave and Division (inside Catholic Charities).
- Choose New Leaf Catering for your next party, event, or meeting.
- Employ graduates of New Leaf or offer a graduate an internship.
- Join New Leaf for their monthly bake sales on the first Wednesday of every month from 11AM-1PM. Information can be found on their Facebook page.