During my son Marc’s first year at Roxbury Latin five years ago, I volunteered to chaperone a service day trip to clean up one of Boston’s oldest cemeteries near Dudley Square in Roxbury (home to Rev. John Eliot’s remains). While the boys raked, picked up trash, and planted bulbs, I chatted with Mr. Brennan’s assistant, Joan Regan. We had just moved to the Boston area, and I told her I was looking for a volunteer position where I could share my skills as a pastry chef. She pointed diagonally across the street to Haley House Bakery Café. Little did I know on that windy, sunny October day how that conversation would change my life.
Haley House has been changing people’s lives for 50 years. Begun as a soup kitchen and shelter in 1966 in the South End where RL sophomores have been volunteering for Sunday meals for many years, it has grown to include affordable housing, urban farming, and two social enterprises (businesses with social purpose: Haley House Bakery Cafe and Dudley Dough, the new pizza shop). In addition to the direct services offered, the community programming today is extensive, including Take Back the Kitchen (cooking classes for urban youth), Community Tables (a pay-what-you-can, sit-down Saturday night dinner for Roxbury families), and the Transitional Employment Program (a training program for men and women returning home after incarceration). Despite all of this growth, Haley House has remained true to its original mission of using “food with purpose” and the power of community to break down barriers and build a better world.
During my first year as a volunteer at Haley House Bakery Café, I did whatever needed to be done including selling our delicious baked goods at the Kendall Square Farmer’s Market and scooping cookie dough for hours to make our famous chocolate chip cookies.
Being part of Haley House has been one of the most rewarding learning experiences of my life. Five years later I’m still a part of Haley House. I’m now a part-time employee and I absolutely love my job. I spend three days a week baking and coming up with new products, including cookies for gift baskets at Winston Flowers.
Haley House continues to evolve and serve our community in so many ways. Every day I’m at Haley House, I am grateful to be surrounded by so many people who are trying to make their lives and the lives of their families better, despite all of the struggles they face. The people of Haley House never fail to inspire me to stretch my own boundaries and to remind me what is possible to achieve when we work together as a community.