Transitioning into the working world can be something out of the ordinary. No matter what your age or circumstance might be, looking to become a part of the work force can be daunting, even frightening.

It can be that much more frightening after spending significant time incarcerated, but having an organization like Madison-area Urban Ministry’s “Just Bakery” is something that has proven to be very effective.

Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM) works with formerly incarcerated individuals to assist them in addressing the barriers to successful reintegration. Each year, approximately 1,700 men and women return to Dane County from jail or prison. Annually 400-500 of them come to MUM to rebuild their lives. Many have lost hope in being hired for a job because employers have problems with their past. But how can someone build a future if they are judged solely upon things that happened in their past?

“Just Bakery” is a vocational and employment training program specifically designed to meet the needs of men and women returning to the community after incarceration. The program provides classroom and hands-on vocational training for men and women interested in food services careers. Just Bakery is a 16-week training program for people who have barriers to employment with the goal of preparing people for a career in culinary or school.

This job is by no means easy, but it is tremendously fulfilling. The world is based on the need for a skill set, and “Just Bakery” fosters the necessary tools and encouragement to create more than these men and women once believed they could achieve. The program is an entrepreneurial endeavor where students are engaged in creating a line of breads and cookies and baked goods for sale in the community. The proceeds are used to support the program and the students assist in the creation of the product, as well as its marketing and sales.

Just Bakery Coordinator Carmella Glenn has made a big impact as she helps people with supportive services that include job mentoring that further enhances the participant’s skill set, and ongoing case management to ensure the individual’s other needs are being addressed.

Just Bakery
Just Bakery

There is safety in the spaces that women like Glenn, who has degrees in both criminal justice and the culinary arts, have created. It takes time to rebuild a broken home or a wounded person, but “Just Bakery” reminds its students that starting again is not the end. It’s just the beginning.

Madison365 caught up with Glenn to talk about the innovative Just Bakery program and we found out a little more about the woman who behind the scenes is helping to give so many people hope.

Madison365: What specifically do you do?
Carmella Glenn: “I am the coordinator, so I do it all. I recruit students, case manage all students, find employment, handle scheduling of churches, supervise staff. My favorite is teaching life skills.”

“Just Bakery” is based here in Madison. It continues to serve as a second home to meet the needs and wants of men and women returning to the community after incarceration. The program provides classroom and hands-on vocational training for men and women interested in food services careers.

Madison365: Where do you get most of your ideas/inspiration?
Carmella Glenn: Most of my inspiration comes from watching people change, seeing them understand that they can live and be different than what society has told them.

Carmella Glenn
Carmella Glenn

Madison365: What is your favorite place for thinking?
Carmella Glenn: Driving, I am always moving around; I work out of three different sites so my time in the car is for unwinding/thinking.

Madison365:Who/what inspires you?
Carmella Glenn: My mother, she was formerly incarcerated and now works as a Chaplain for Fox Lake Correctional.

Madison365: Why do you believe this organization is important?
Carmella Glenn: We are good at what we do. We give voice to a population of people that the world doesn’t want to hear from. We allow them to trust again.

Madison365: How have you impacted the Wisconsin community?
Carmella Glenn: I have said this many times. Ninety-seven percent of the people going to prison are coming home. What do you want them to look like? They are moving in your neighborhood. At MUM/Just Bakery we are giving them a skill that they can expand on. That an employer can expand on. If people are working and able to take care of themselves and their family, they are less likely to commit a crime.

Madison365: It’s safe to say that this is the first of its kind. It is truly amazing to watch so much work and progression placed into people that the world lost hope for. Is keeping this organization running smoothly difficult?
Carmella Glenn: I call it the beast with many arms. It is difficult, but I love every second. I was made to do this. My staff and I make it look easy. We have lots of communication, lots of check-­ins and we keep ourselves focused. All of the people working for Just Bakery are former students and have a passion to see this grow.

Written by Francisco Velazquez

Francisco Velazquez

“I write to remember what living is, and to one day allow my words to live past my existence.”

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