Giving Back

Together We Bake Celebrates Largest Fundraiser in its History 

Erica Anaya, president of Together We Bake; Martha Carucci, emcee & executive director of National Breast Center Foundation and author; Colida Johnson, TWB program/production manager; Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker; Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin. (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Alexandria, VA – Together We Bake, a workforce training program for women facing barriers to employment, raised over $175,000 during its Empowerment Breakfast on May 9. Three hundred fifty people gathered at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center for the annual grand event. Executive Director Stephanie Wright said this was the largest fundraiser the organization has ever seen.

Every year during the fundraising breakfast, Together We Bake presents two alums with the Together We Rise and the Together We Empower awards. The crowd rose to its feet to applaud the honorees’ personal and professional accomplishments.

Left to right: Together We Bake Co-Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Wright; Heather Peeler, President & CEO of ACT for Alexandria; Jane Marcus. (Photo: Judith Fogel)

Wright said her formative years were the opposite of the women her organization serves. In an interview, she told Zebra, “I always felt very loved and cared for and had a lot of opportunity and always felt drawn to helping people who weren’t in those same circumstances. I have always been someone who wanted to help.”

Wright got her Master’s degree in social work and co-founded Together We Bake with Tricia Sabatini. The two met through their children at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School. Wright shared what it feels like to see women who enter the program finally get to the other side.

Connie Kim, Susan Oetgen, Tracie Fulton Harris, TWB board secretary; Diane Poirier, Stacy Spencer, Dana Kohli, Carla Pressley. (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Together We Bake is centered around a small baking business where women actively learn and participate in food production, food safety education, and business administration. TWB also teaches empowerment and life skills to help women develop self-confidence and healthy coping strategies.

“That’s the best part of it! It’s watching these women recognize in themselves that they can do anything they put their hearts, souls, and minds to and watching them start believing in themselves. I believe in them when they walk in the door, but they don’t necessarily believe in themselves. But once they start looking at and recognizing who they are and getting in touch with their core goodness and all they really are, they start to believe in themselves, and that’s amazing to watch.”

Wright will leave her post as co-head of the organization by the end of the year.

Martha Carucci served as emcee of the morning, her lively, engaging anecdotes animating the audience. But the executive director of the National Breast Center Foundation based in Alexandria also shared a far more serious tale.

Front row: Peggy Fox, Dominion Energy, Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, former Mayor Allison Silberberg. Back row: Lianne Wang, senior vice president, John Marshall Bank; Jessica Davis, Trust Merchant Services; Jennifer Ferrara, senior vice president, John Marshall Bank. (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

“I was shaking by 11:00 am until I could get a drink in my hand,” Carucci revealed. She talked to The Zebra about those years. Carucci had been a successful lobbyist but left when her second child turned one. “I stayed home, and that’s really when I got lost in my drinking. I was a stay-at-home mom, and I kind of lost my identity and what I did. I’d had an exciting, successful career on Capitol Hill, lobbying and traveling.”

Carucci noted her struggle with alcohol is one of the reasons Stephanie Wright invited her to emcee the event. “A lot of the women in Together We Bake have substance abuse and alcoholism in their history,” she explained. On May 28, Carucci reached 12 years of sobriety.

Linda Mazawey, who paid $4,000 in the auction for famous Chef Carla Hall to make biscuits at her house with four of her friends. (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Elizabeth Bennett-Parker was one of the early leaders of Together We Bake. The former Alexandria vice mayor is now a Virginia delegate. “The Empowerment Breakfast was an inspiring event, as always. It was an honor to be a part of the organization for six years and to watch it grow. I’m grateful to Stephanie, Tricia, and the entire staff for their work to support women in our community, and I am continually inspired by the women who graduate from the program.”

Want to empower underserved women at Together We Bake? Please donate: (togetherwebake.org/pages/donate-to-twb).

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