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Baking program helps former prisoners reclaim life

Sunday - 8/25/2013, 10:37am  ET

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Chocolate-chip cookies baked and sold by the Together We Bake program. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
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WASHINGTON - Two Alexandria women, who are friends and running partners, cooked up an idea that is giving women who are getting out of jail a second chance.

"We just have two products - chocolate-chip cookies and granola," says Stephanie Wright who is co-founder of Together We Bake. And "we sell the products here at the Del Ray Farmers Market."

Repeat customer Bob Kane says of the granola cookies, "I've had these before and they are really, really good."

Wright says Together We Bake, which they started in January, is a job-training and personal development program for women in need of a second chance. The 10-week program is mainly for women getting out of jail and who are trying to reclaim their lives.

"We are based on a baking business. And we teach them food production, food safety, packaging, delivering, customer service and running a business," Wright says. The program is based in Alexandria and the Downtown Baptist Church allows use of its kitchen.

Wright is a social worker and her running partner, Tricia Sabatini, is a baker. While on a long run, the two moms who were thinking about getting back into the work force and decided to combine their passions.

Wright says they knew they wanted to focus on women, and researched what services were missing in their community. "We found this population (women getting out of prison) really needed help getting that first job. Because having a criminal conviction closes a lot of doors," she says.

Wright adds she and Sabatini developed the program to give these women some new skills, some recent experience and a reference, which is "a huge part of getting a job," she says.

The women in the program learn job skills by baking the products and selling them at the farmers market. They also work on their own emotional development as part of the program Houses of Healing. Wright says that in the program, "We say 'I am worthy.' And for them, by the end, to say 'I am worthy' and to believe it - I mean, there's nothing like it. I absolutely love what I'm doing and I am honored to work with these women."

The Del Ray farmers market is open year round on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the corner of East Oxford and Mount Vernon Avenues.

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