Hope To It: This bakery gives employees a fresh start

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By Scott Stump

A New York-based bakery is not only producing delectable fresh-baked goods found everywhere from Whole Foods to Ben and Jerry's ice cream, but also fresh starts for its employees. 

Greyston Bakery, based in Yonkers, New York, provides jobs for people who have been homeless, battled substance abuse, or have a history of incarceration, and it provides them without doing background checks or demanding a resume. 

"The real point of Greyston is to give an opportunity to people that other people have given up on,'' Greyston president and CEO Steven Brown told TODAY on Tuesday as part of the show's ongoing "Hope To It" series. "We have a saying here that says, 'We don't hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people."

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Each of the company's approximately 90 employees is offered a steady salary, child care, affordable housing and educational workshops. 

"We hire anybody who walks in the door to work here if they are interested in having a job,'' Brown said. "All we do is ask them to work and to work hard." 

Greyston has given a fresh start to employees like Raymond Wallace, 43, a father of four who has turned his life around while working hard in the 90-degree heat at the bakery, making pastries.

"Five-and-a-half years I was away, in and out of incarceration,'' Wallace told TODAY. "It's kind of hard finding a job. Once you get felonies on your record, nobody wants to hire you. You're a brand new person when you come to Greyston. They don't look into your background. It's a brand new start for you." 

Dion Drew has worked at Greyston for six years, earning a promotion to lead operator after years of struggles. 

"I learned a lot here: patience, how to deal with others, my attitude, how to save money in a bank,'' Drew told TODAY. "I had been doing wrong since '94. I can't explain to you how it makes me feel to see my mom see me doing good and see my mom smiling. It's a good feeling. Now when I talk to my mom, it's about legal things." 

Getting a second chance has also helped the employees serve as positive role models for their own children. 

"I love my kids to death,'' Walker said. "I just try to set an example for them. Sometimes my daughter says she wants to be a baker, and I say, 'Maybe some day. You just have to aim for it.'''

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