Nonprofit bakery in Stone Mountain dedicated to helping refugeesSisto, a recent refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, moves a bowl of cookies from the oven to a storage area in the Just Bakery of Atlanta kitchen at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain. Photo by Gabriel Owens
By Gabriel Owens, contributor
In the back of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, a small, seemingly unused building sits quietly away from the highway. Around the back down a sloped hill, its second floor, also looking abandoned, greets you with closed doors.
The doors suddenly swing open, and the fresh smell of apple pies wafts out on the November breeze. Welcome to the “kitchen” of Just Bakery of Atlanta, a non-profit organization that trains, certifies, and employs refugees at a living wage.
“We partner with our bakers to create diverse, life-giving community and economic security as they settle into their new homes and lives in the Atlanta area,” says Leah Lonsbury, Executive Director of Just Bakery. “We were started to fill a gap in the long term settlement of refugees and the process of continuing education and job certification.”
The kitchen is a mostly unused part of the church, which donated space for free for the bakery which churns out baked goods sold throughout the Metro Atlanta area at various events. The lead baker, Jo Nichols, directs two other women apprentices as they put together apple pies. A young man of about 20 dutifully sweeps around them, while also cleaning counter tops and anything else needed. All three are refugees who have only been in the area a few months.
The young man, Sisto, has just arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is silent, but smiling as he moves around the small kitchen.
“Sisto was one of our first hires when we started around early October,” says Lonsbury. “He is also an apprentice baker and is working on getting his high school diploma.”
Their work space is cramped, but workable. “We are looking to convert some of these counter tops for better use,” Lonsbury says. “The more usable space we have, the more baked goods we can make, and the more money we can put towards refugee settlement.”
The pies are bound for various self-sales and community events around Atlanta this weekend. There are 65 orders to be made. The bakery also makes various other baked goods such as breads, cookies, sweet rolls.
“Our holiday sales are about to start,” Lonsbury says as the two apprentices squeeze past her. “We have holiday cookies and sweet rolls that will go to be sold to elementary schools and other community events.”
Just Bakery has partnered with the International Rescue Committee, who helped them find the church and the pastor. Memorial Presbyterian has several programs already in place for refugees on their campus “so allowing us to work here was a no-brainer,” Lonsbury says.
“Renting a space with a kitchen would sink us.”
Before returning to work, Lonsbury points out that supporting the bakery “not only helps change the lives of our refugee neighbors, but you’re also supporting local farmers and producers who supply our ingredients.”
You can learn more about Just Bakery of Atlanta by visiting: www.justbakeryatl.org