Something The Bread House & Granary on Dawson Road has been quietly-but-eagerly concocting over the past few days could dramatically alter Albany’s course, which many of us believe is misguided, at best.
Then again, it may not.
But the small business’s efforts are certainly going to make Albany a more beautiful community, no matter how you slice it.
I’m so grateful that someone’s trying, that’s for sure.
Tomorrow, The Bread House will begin a journey it has dubbed “Pay It Forward.” It’s far-from-an-original name for a far-from-an-original concept: Enriching people’s lives and encouraging others to do the same. This is not your basic shop-local initiative, which would be cool enough. Indeed, I’m thinking The Bread House’s Pay It Forward initiative may very well put Albany on the international map. Already, I’m certain the likes of Anderson Cooper and Matt Lauer are going to jump on it – and here’s why:
The Bread House & Granary is fully staffed by women who are currently residing at GraceWay Recovery Residence, a local substance abuse recovery community in Albany. Known for their freshly milled whole grain breads and bakery goods, the staff is giving away a specially made product – a “lavash” bread that The Bread House is calling “Pan de Vida” or “Bread of Life” – to anyone who walks through the doors. The only price that recipients of The Bread House’s edible gift will have to pay is committing to doing something nice for someone – and then returning to the store to provide a testimonial in writing in a huge hardbound journal located in the bakery.
“We’re asking people to come back to The Bread House and tell us what it meant to them, or if they were on the receiving end, we’re asking them to share the impact that the gift or good deed had on them,” said Kerry Dehus, the store’s manager.
Lavash (pronounced le-vosh) is a crisp, handsomely constructed cracker-like bread that wasn’t on The Bread House’s menu – until now, although it’s not for sale. It is simply made with flour, water and salt. But that’s beside the point. This Pay It Forward project could work with a loaf of whole wheat or pumpkin bread, or the wheatgrass juice (which is available at The Bread House and nowhere else within 100 miles). For that matter, the lavash is just a symbol.
“Even if you take the neighbor’s garbage out or just share the loaf of bread,” Dehus said, “that’s paying it forward. When this is over, we’d like to be able to call Albany ‘The City of Generosity.’ That would be a beautiful outcome, wouldn’t it?”
Yesterday, while interviewing Dehus for this report, I was presented with a magnificent 12-inch-by- 18-inch loaf (I guess that’s what you’d call it) or chunk of “bread of life,” which was quickly devoured with a latte.
To pay it forward, today I will donate $25 and an Albany Journal subscription to GraceWay, $25 to Liberty House, and give GraceWay a golf-outing-for-four at Stonebridge Country Club that can be used to reward a generous donor or generate income through a silent auction or raffle.
Tomorrow, I’ll log my gift in the Pay It Forward book at the GraceWay. Is this a cool project, or what?!
Remember, GraceWay doesn’t require, request or even want to be the sole – or even the primary – beneficiary of Pay It Forward. Why, that wouldn’t be paying it forward, would it?
Albany’s challenges are legendary and people, naturally, want solutions. The Bread House has an answer – maybe not THE answer, but certainly AN answer.
Judge for yourself whether Dehus has already received a sign from above that GraceWay is on to something special. Dehus recently met Albany businessman and philanthropist Lem Griffin and shared the GraceWay-Bread House story with him. He expressed to her that Albany is a very generous community. This inspired the Pay It Forward concept and Griffin decided to kick the project off with a $1,000 charitable donation.
Then, over the weekend as she was at a local hobby store with Grace Way’s founder with Pay It Forward prominently on their minds, Dehus stumbled upon a plaque with this poem, circa 1938, by an unknown author.
My town is the place where
My house is found,
Business is located, and
Where my vote is cast.
It is where my children are
educated, and where my life is.
My town has a right to my civic loyalty.
It supports me and I should support it.
My town wants my citizenship,
Not my partisanship.
My friendliness not my dissensions.
My sympathy, not my criticism.
My intelligence not my indifference.
My town supplies me with protection,
Trade, friends, education,
School, churches, and the right to
Free moral citizenship.
It has some things better than others.
The best things I should see to make better.
The worst things I should help to suppress.
Take it all-in-all,
It is my town
And it is entitled to the best there is in me.
Already “Bread of Life” is loaded with biblical symbolism consistent with the Pay It Forward notion. The $20 plaque, Dehus said, “sort of serves as confirmation of what we are doing.”
Now, won’t you join me in paying it forward? Just follow your nose, and your heart, to The Bread House at 1902 Dawson Road.
For more information, call The Bread House at 888-9775 or visit their website at www.TheBreadHouse.com.
Bread House employee Dawn Curry (left) makes an entry into Pay It Forward testimonial book while Kaci Gibbs displays the “pon de vita” — “bread of life” — that is serving as the symbolic-yet-delicious catalyst for The Bread House & Granary’s community-building initiative, which begins Thursday.