One Man’s Story
Author: Br. Ed Conlin
The Capuchin ‘On The Rise’ bakery’s story began 10 years ago, when a man named Edward Collins walked into the Capuchin Soup Kitchen after 32 years in prison. The Department of Corrections had made a baker out of him during his time in the system, and his newfound skill took him to wardens’ birthdays and prison anniversaries. Upon his release, however, his felony gridlocked his ability to find employment, and Collins, disheartened, decided to return to the living he had known: selling drugs.
By Providence, Edward attended a Soup kitchen prayer session open to all guests and there met Cynthia Lockhart the Conner Kitchen chaplain. She referred him to Br. Ray Stadmeyer who tasted his pie and decided to let him use the Capuchin ovens in off hours to make products for Sunday bake sales at suburban Catholic parishes.
“I’m not looking for a handout, I’m asking you for a ‘hand-up’”, was Edward’s announcement at each Mass. Please try my baked goods and vote with your purchase. The response was overwhelming. From those profits and Capuchin support ten years ago, the “On the Rise” bakery was born.
The journey has been two-fold. Firstly, a growing commercial bakery training & providing jobs for nearly 100 at risk Detroiters. Secondly, a center of recovery and healing where so many have gotten a ‘hand-up’ leading to a productive & stable life.
For Brother Ray, the best part is watching the men catch a vision for community and receive love in return for their service. One Sunday, Collins was distributing his baked goods at a church when four small, elderly women approached him to ask him for the recipe. As he explained his recipe to his rapt audience “I was deeply moved,” Brother Ray confesses. This big, African American ex-convict is laughing with elderly church ladies about dough texture!”
He sits in On the Rise on a cold, but sunny afternoon, and around him, volunteers and program participants alike are hard at work cleaning the floor and preparing sandwiches. The experience of guiding the bakers through their journeys has been profoundly impactful. “As I worked with these men I realized this was a holy place – the struggles are genuine, but very beautiful.”