The smell of freshly baked doughnuts and the sounds of kitchen tools fill the early morning hours on the first floor of Carriage Town Ministries. Sean Reynolds, assistant baker for Blueline Donuts, is carefully icing dozens of Long John doughnuts. Preparing several varieties of classically adorned doughnuts is one of the many tasks on his daily to-do list when opening Carriage Town Bakery in Flint.
Reynolds is one of several employees who are part of CTM’s low-barrier transitional employment program, which was created to teach bakery and employment skills to residents looking to reenter the workforce.
“The transitional program gives us an opportunity to get back into the workforce. It gives us an opportunity to learn new things. We can use what we know to go back into the real world, get a job and keep it,” said Reynolds. “The upside of this to me is that it gives you the motivation to do the things that you like to do. It gives you that drive, that push for you to just go out and do what you need to do. I haven’t seen the downfalls of this program. To me, it works.”
While the doughnuts continue to be prepared and packaged for the bakery and wholesale orders, Derek Mason helps take freshly made doughnuts to be put on display. Mason also is a transitional employee working as a sales associate at the front counter of Carriage Town Bakery, located across the street from CTM.
Blueline Donuts launched in 2017 as a social enterprise of CTM. The primary mission has been to provide low-barrier transitional employment opportunities to those experiencing homelessness. Securing a dependable income stream is a key contributing factor to breaking the cycle of homelessness.
In 2022, Blueline Donuts grew with the creation of Carriage Town Bakery, providing room for expansion into additional baked goods and increased employment opportunities for chronically homeless men and women. Carriage Town Bakery’s program teaches baking, methods for handling food safely and customer service skills to individuals seeking the skills needed for employment in the food industry.
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation granted $95,000 to CTM to purchase furnishings for the bakery and support its mission with the development of a transitional employment program.
Mason’s warm smile greets customers looking for a doughnut and a hot cup of coffee. Mason has been a resident of CTM for a year and has been working in the transitional employment program for four months.
“Carriage Town has done so much for me,” said Mason. “I was incarcerated for 22 years, and when I came home, all my family members were deceased. Carriage Town saved my life because I was going downhill, and I had met rock bottom.”
The efficacy and power of the transitional employment program is an essential ingredient for Dallas Gatlin, executive director at CTM.
“To extricate yourself from the street in a sustainable way, we thought we needed some transitional employment opportunities here on campus,” Gatlin said. “It’s a huge leap from being chronically homeless or chronically unemployed to going out and getting a job.”
According to Gatlin, the transitional employment program has two major goals: teach employees the disciplines of showing up to work, day after day, and how to become a self-motivated, continuous learner. The program allows its employees to earn money and teaches them how to live on a budget, live independently and rebuild personal legacies.
Gatlin invites community members to visit the new Carriage Town Bakery and taste the doughnuts for themselves. The bakery, located at 604 Garland St., is open 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
“We want people in Flint to see this as their doughnut shop,” said Gatlin. “The joy of being a customer walking into Blueline Donuts is getting the best doughnut in Flint and supporting the people working behind the counter, because they’re trying to make a difference.”