Alexandria, VA – Food baked with love always tastes better. On Wednesday, Together We Bake, the local nonprofit dedicated to providing comprehensive workforce training and personal development for women in need, held its third annual empowerment breakfast. The event, which was held at the Westin Old Town was full of joy, tears and triumph as eight graduates from the six month program were recognized for taking out new leases on life.
“It takes real courage to get out of your comfort zone and get involved in something that makes your life better,” U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) said at the event.
More than 150 women have graduated from the six-month-long program, which is held in the Downtown Baptist Church at 212 South Washington St. Many of the graduates are former prison inmates, victims of domestic abuse and homeless. The women learn — baking, life skills, empowerment training, and take a test to receive ServSafe certificates to be managers of businesses in the food service industry.
“We all want to live our best lives,” said Shavonne Sandlain, a graduate of the winter 2018 class. “Since the program I’ve learned to be a patient listener. Yoga – that really helped me out a lot, taught me to relax.”
Together We Bake was founded by Tricia Wright and Stephanie Sabatini in 2012. And before she took office this year, in 2016, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker merged her company Fruitcycle with Together We Bake.
“In 2018, we had a 92 percent program completion rate; 97 percent of our team members attained their nationally recognized ServSafe certification,” Wright said. “Only 10 percent of our team members were employed when they walked in our doors and 65 percent of our graduates were employed post graduation.”
Sabatini said that the nonprofit is looking to secure and expand its physical space.
“More space will provide efficiencies and opportunities for the program to grow strategically,” she said. “It will enable us to train more women, expand our programming, provide more services to our alumni, and increase production. Expansion also would mean we could hire additional alumni team members.”