Blueline Donuts aims to give recipe for success to residents with new bakery

FLINT, Michigan — A local homeless shelter that provides jobs for residents is about to sweeten the deal even more with their new bakery. Blueline Donuts, a social enterprise via Carriage Town Ministries, is expanding and renovating a building. Carriage Town Bakery is poised to open the retail space at 604 Garland Street within the next year or two.

Director of Community Engagement at Carriage Town Ministries, Cindy Johns, says the mission of the organization is to “provide a clean, safe, encouraging place to land when someone is experiencing homelessness.” 

“We provide shelter for men, women, and children,” Johns says, “and provide their basic needs including three meals a day, laundry. We provide a mentored route to self-sufficiency, and assist in getting housing, jobs, and anything needed to acquire those.”

As part of this self-sufficiency route, Blueline Donuts, a social enterprise, was launched in January 2017. The cafe business provides low-barrier transitional employment to the chronically homeless population. Today, the cafe provides a wholesale supply of homemade donuts, bagels, and muffins to the greater Flint hospitality community, including wholesale products at Foster Coffee Co. 

Johns says the low-barrier transitional employment program that Blueline Donuts provides is a great job training opportunity. “Sometimes our residents are unable to get jobs because of barriers to employment,” she says. “We created Blueline Donuts to hire residents into this program, and bring them into the kitchen to work.” 
Blueline's wholesale products can also be found at Foster Coffee Co.
Employees learn how to make donuts, bagels, muffins, and the retail side of the business as well. The cafe is currently open Wednesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to noon., but Johns says the hours will be expanded with the new bakery opening across the street. With the expansion, will also come more job opportunities.

“We sell wholesale donuts and special-order donuts, and we’re steadily moving forward,” Johns says. “Across the street from our main building on the East corner of University and Garland, we are renovating an old, dilapidated building to become Carriage Town Bakery. When that opens, we would like to be able to hire more residents, because it will be open more hours. As the requests and orders increase, hire more people to make donuts.”

Johns says the job training program helps people to realize their potential, like Bruce Sowles, a former resident, who now serves as Blueline Donuts’ head baker. 
Bruce Sowles.
“It also gives you the opportunity to improve your work ethic,” she says. “If you have a barrier to employment, this is one of those things that can overcome the barrier, you can prove you have a good work ethic and can be a good employee. It goes on your resume, and we become a reference for you.”

Johns says this program is not supposed to be long-term, but rather, a transition. “You get some skills in the food industry, a chance to prove yourself, and then you move out of this job, into a sustainable job, get an apartment, and hopefully move up in the food industry.”

As for the renovations of the space, many local contractors are providing free labor or materials when they can, in order to help make this vision come to life. Support has come from Rhoads and Johnson Construction, Dee Cramer, Johnson and Wood, ProEx Inc., Fessler and Bowman Inc., Northern Construction & Building Inc., Weinstein Electric, Dynamic Home Solutions, and Maximum Roofing. 

“We’d love for people to stop in, and have a donut in our cafe. We really appreciate the support of the community,” Johns says. “Something as simple as purchasing a donut benefits someone who is seeking to get skills, a job, and to move forward in their life. It can help them move out of a homeless situation, into a self-sustaining lifestyle.”

For more information on Blueline Donuts, visit the website: bluelinedonuts.square.site

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.