Famous New York bakery gives felons a sweet second chance

Famous New York bakery gives felons a sweet second chance
CNN
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Monday, April 14, 2014 - 4:16pm

Yonkers, NY (WPIX) -- There's more than just the sweet smell of chocolate wafting through Greyston Bakery. There's also the buzz of opportunity.

The Yonkers sweet shop famous for baking every brownie that goes into Ben and Jerry's ice cream has been giving convicted felons gainful employment – and a way out of the cycle of incarceration – for nearly three decades.

"We don't hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people," said Steven Brown, president and CEO of Greyston Foundation.

Most of the women and men working the line go to the bakery at the end of their own, when no other businesses would hire them because of their sordid pasts.

But at Greyston, anyone who signs up for a job is guaranteed to get it – no questions asked, no resumes required, no background checks performed.

That's something Raymond Wallace said was crucial to him getting the help he needed to help himself.

Wallace spent 12 years in and out of jail. As a father who grew up in Yonkers, Wallace knew Greyston was the one place he could go to the stop the cycle.

"When you've been back and forth in the streets, back and forth in jail, it takes a toll on your life as you get older," he said.

Now instead of selling drugs, Wallace is part of a team rising to the occasion, every day making 30,000 pounds of brownies for Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Cookie Thins recently rolled out at Whole Foods.

Some of the money the bakery makes goes to fund an affordable day care center for working families, about a mile away from the bakery. The proceeds have helped build 300 units of affordable housing, taking up almost an entire downtown block.

Greyston now wants to expand their practices and philosophy to other businesses, saying their model has saved taxpayers in Westchester County millions of dollars in incarceration costs. 

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