When asked how I came up with the idea for Rockin' Baker, I always share my story.
I was reading the book Earning Serendipity by Glenn Llopis on the last leg of a flight to visit my family. And it was then, just before the captain announced in typical fashion, "We're beginning our decent," that the entire concept for Rockin' Baker popped into my head.
Like an inflight movie, I saw—there on the "screen" of my mind—a way to combine my business experience with my heart for serving others, a way to combine a business with a nonprofit.
Some call this mid-air epiphany "my calling."
My mother says the calling was just waiting to be revealed; she saw some hints of it when I was younger. For instance, as a teenager, I painted a still life featuring a loaf of crusty bread with a brioche bun next to it. When I told my mother about my idea for Rockin' Baker, she stripped the painting from its frame and shipped it to me.
Today that painting is displayed at the bakery as a reminder of how someone's life can take a radically unexpected turn.
Life at Rockin' Baker has also taken unexpected turns
The original concept for Rockin' Baker started as an on-the-job training program for individuals with troubled backgrounds. I believe all people are of value, and that good, clean, honest work can empower individuals to reach their full potential.
But I made a slight adjustment to the direction of Rockin' Baker when my path crossed with Amie, the mother of a young lady living with autism. Through that experience I learned how challenging it was for neuro-diverse folks to join the workforce.
That was over two years ago. Today, Rockin' Baker continues to train individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
The duality of COVID-19: expected and unexpected turns
After witnessing the adverse impact of COVID-19 on some of my friends living overseas, and already sensing the danger this pandemic presented to our community in Northwest Arkansas, I made the decision to close the bakery before it was even mandatory.
That was kind of expected.
Unexpected, though, was seeing how our nonprofit bakery could become a source of nourishment for so many souls negatively affected by the outbreak.
Because we are in this together
Through the support of individuals near and far, Rise Up Together came to life. The campaign was a way for the bakery to keep its ovens hot, even as it produced freshly baked bread for food banks, schools and low-income communities.
As COVID-19 forced our primary clientele, local restaurants, to temporarily close their doors, we shifted our focus to helping local households impacted by job losses, income reductions, school closures and interruptions to school lunch programs.
By the end of April, this little bakery, nestled inside a small strip mall in Fayetteville, Arkansas, will have donated over 22,800 servings.
COVID-19 is and will remain one of the biggest challenges some of us ever face. But we're extremely grateful to be able to count on so many kind hearts—supporters who believe in our mission of helping others overcome their personal challenges.
Yet the effects of this pandemic will stay with us for the foreseeable future. Thanks to donations to our Rise Up Together campaign, we will continue these efforts.
And, back to the “calling," I simply attribute it to marrying someone with the last name Baker.
Destiny? Maybe. Serendipity? Absolutely.
Learn more at rockinbaker.org