As we end 2016 there is much to be thankful for at firstfruits. While our primary emphasis is the Christmas holiday season with our gift baskets, we are developing a strong Special Occasion business as well as corporate basket sales. We also have a small batch bakery that operated our of Chef’s Workshop in Hoover. We bake teacakes that are sold at Pepper Place and Lee Branch Markets. We would like to expand our distribution to local coffee shops and hospitals. Currently we have five flavors — Brandied Apple Spice, Blueberry Citrus, Chocolate Gingerbread, Pumpkin, and Cranberry Orange Nut. 2016 was a year of learning the ropes of small batch baking and local markets.
We have partnered with several shelters over the course of the years to provide jobs for their residents. Currently we are working with Clerestory ministry and its Jobs for Life program. Clerestory provides a comprehensive approach to helping people get back on their feet by offering employment training, job opportunities, free legal services, cars and matching savings program for people who are hard to place because of additions, poor job skills, spotty employment records, inappropriate work behavior and lack of motivation. We participated in their job preparation classes and have employed graduates of their classes.
Our long-term vision is a one-to-two year sheltered work program in a Christ-centered environment coupled with employment readiness classes, mentoring, group therapy and counseling. Many, if not most women coming out of traumatic situations cannot successfully transition into a full-time job without a strong support system and long-term supervision.
In November of 2016 we began a 3 month pilot paid internship program at Community Presbyterian Church in Moody. The curriculum includes Bible Study, Basket Making, Employment Readiness Skills, Counseling, Smart Shopping, Healthy Living, Community Work, Baking, and Inventory Processing. The program started with two interns focused on our Christmas Season basket orders. The program is funded by donations, our small batch bakery and basket businesses. In addition, we are starting an Ebay business to generate additional income to support our interns and provide work.
Going forward, we will continue to explore collaborations with other ministries who have a heart to help women in need. Our goal is to more effectively prepare women for a successful transition from darkness to light, from hopelessness to hope, from despair to victory. We are looking for partners who have the same foundation in Christ with a strong, spiritual component in their programs, who believe that work is essential to a person’s well being, and who believe that a hand up rather than a hand out is most beneficial for those able to work.