Where jobs are job one

As it heads into the bakery’s 40th year, Greyston Foundation Inc. has relegated many of the aspects of its former mission — HIV/AIDS, homelessness, a community garden — to other organizations to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

At first glance, Adriaen van der Donck, Bernard “Bernie” Glassman and Joseph D. “Joe” Kenner wouldn’t seem to have much in common other than terrific smarts and success in their individual business fields.

Van der Donck (circa 1618-55) was a 17th-century Dutch lawyer, a doctor of canon as well as civil law; Glassman (1939-2018), an aeronautical engineer and Ph.D. in applied mathematics who worked for McDonnell-Douglas; and Kenner, an MBA who spent 14 years in corporate America with Chubb Insurance, Lehman Brothers and PepsiCo, along with serving as a Port Chester trustee and deputy mayor.

But the three have shared a passion for bettering the lives of workingmen and women in Yonkers and beyond. Van der Donck would take the case for New Netherland (Dutch New York) colonists having a greater say in their governance by the Dutch West India Co. all the way to Amsterdam (Page 26).  Glassman, who turned to Zen Buddhism in the 1960s, founded Greyston Bakery in 1982 to combat joblessness and homelessness and, 10 years later, Greyston Foundation to expand the bakery’s mission. (The enterprise was named for its original home, Greyston, an 1863 mansion in the Riverdale section of the Bronx created by James Renwick Jr., architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.)

And Kenner — who served as deputy commissioner in Westchester County’s Department of Social Services before coming to Greyston in 2018 as vice president of programs and partnerships and becoming CEO last year — is moving its mission forward. 

Last year, Greyston announced its “2030 Vision,” a 10-year plan to create at least 40,000 jobs — and an economic effect of $3 billion, working with less than 1% of those facing barriers to employment.

“A lot of people don’t get the opportunities that others have,” Kenner says. “Homelessness, food insecurity, single parenthood:  There are so many barriers that people can’t get over.”

From its beginnings, Greyston — the nonprofit foundation, which has a “small but mighty” staff of about 25 and an approximately $4 million budget and the for-profit bakery it owns — have been all about overcoming barriers. Its Open Hiring program for entry-level apprenticeships at the bakery at 104 Alexander St. in Yonkers employs anyone who wants to work, no questions asked. As the website notes:  “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.” All you have to do is fill out an application online. Greyston calls in 10 people at a time. The wait is about one to three months.

Not only does the bakery train you but it provides the support services needed to keep people employed to make the brownies in chocolate fudge, vegan fudge and (seasonally) pumpkin spice and blondies in brown sugar, snickerdoodle, cinnamon roll and birthday cake that customers can buy on the website or at Whole Foods or Cava. (Some 110 employees turn out nearly 50,000 pounds of brownies and blondies in a workweek and around 12 million annually.) Since 1987, the bakery has partnered with Ben & Jerry’s, providing brownie inclusions for several of its ice creams. The first Benefit Corporation, or B Corp, in New York state, Greyson Bakery received a 2021 “Best for the World” award for excelling in the three Ps — People (treatment of employees), Planet (environmental and recycling practices) and Profit (continuously increasing revenues).

Greyston’s Open Hiring policy has become a model, Kenner says, for The Body Shop, which has hired 1,200 people in adapting the program; CleanCraft, a cleaning company owned by Greyston board member Ty Hookway; and Rhino Foods, for which the bakery supplies cookie dough. Bringing New York’s Dutch heritage full circle, Greyston has also partnered with The Netherlands’ Start Foundation, which has more than 20 similar programs in various industries.

But Open Hiring is just one way the Greyston Foundation seeks to end unemployment. The other is its PathMaking training courses that provide a host of certifications in security, buildings and construction, health care, technology and the culinary arts. 

In its work, Kenner says, Greyston has had “an amazing long-term relationship with the city of Yonkers. Mayor Mike Spano and the City Council have given us tremendous support.” Greyston has also received $2 million over the last 10 years in federal Community Development Block Grants.

As it heads into the bakery’s 40th year, Greyston has relegated many of the aspects of its former mission — HIV/AIDS, homelessness, a community garden — to other organizations to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“We want to unlock the power of human potential by empowering one person at a time,” Kenner says. “That encapsulates the work of the bakery and the foundation — giving people the opportunity to transform their lives.”

For more, visit greyston.org.

Good news for Yonkers employers, employees and residents

Since 2012, Yonkers has added more than $3.8 billion in private investment. 

The Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has attracted nearly $1 billion in private investment in the past two years alone.

The city has created more than 3,500 new jobs. 

As a result:

The poverty rate has dropped from 17.5% in 2012 to 14.9% in 2019.

The median household income has risen from $55,298 in 2012 to $63,849 in 2019.

— Supplied by the city of Yonkers

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