In the early 1980s, Bernie Glassman saw a need among individuals in the Yonkers community for a second chance at life. Yonkers has the highest concentration of poverty in Westchester County, with 18.5% of Southwest Yonkers residents living below the poverty line and 11% being unemployed. When Glassman opened Greyston Bakery in 1982, he made it his mission to give the hard-to-employ a way out of poverty.
Greyston Bakery employs an Open Hiring™ Model. Anyone who comes to the bakery is given a chance to work, no questions asked. The bakery uses a waiting list, and as soon as a job becomes available, it is given to the next person on the list. Because the bakery trains its employees in baking and employment readiness skills during an apprenticeship period, any individual can work, regardless of background or work history.
The bakery's PathMaking philosophy demands that every individual is given support to achieve "wholeness," an idea that an individual can achieve a healthy life that is well-balanced in the areas of the mind, body, heart, and spirit. Assessment and goal-setting tools help individuals identify their strengths and weaknesses and create a plan towards self-improvement.
The PathMaking philosophy has manifested into a wide range of programs that support individuals on their path to "wholeness." Greyston's Community Gardens & Environmental Education Program provides comprehensive environmental education for the community, as well as fresh produce and a safe open space for recreation and relaxation. Six vacant city lots have been transformed into growing spaces that teach students and families the importance of healthy eating and conservation.
Greyston's Workforce Development Program trains individuals in hard and soft skills, financial literacy, and tools for educational advancement with a focus on skill set development for in-demand fields that offer a livable wage. The program works with adults who have minimal education and work experience; history of incarceration, drug/alcohol use, or homelessness; or a nominal grasp on English due to immigration. Since its founding, the program has assisted more than 200 individuals.
The Greyston Learning Center gives low-income parents affordable, high-quality child care with an emphasis on school preparation, which allows them to work and escape poverty. Using evidence-based practices and assessment tools, the program provides children with "fun with a purpose." The Center has been accredited by the prestigious National Association for the Education of Young Children every year since 2002, and it is currently licensed for 96 children who are between the ages of six weeks and five years.
Affordable housing is also necessary for individuals to achieve self-sufficiency, so Greyston has built nearly 300 units for 522 individuals, including a $32 million multifamily housing development for working families in Yonkers. Among the residences is Issan House, a 35-unit supportive housing for formerly homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. 97% of the residents are diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness and 94% with drug/alcohol addiction. The house provides fifty tenants a year with specialized services.
Greyston Bakery has gone beyond its title as a "bakery" to offer a vast number of services and programs that help numerous individuals and families. For those who are interested, there are many ways to get involved with Greyston. Individuals can join Team Greyston and come up with creative events to fundraise and introduce others to Greyston. Individuals can also make monetary or in-kind donations, volunteer their time, or buy brownies made by the bakery.