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Sugar House Journal

Flourish Bakery moves to Midvale after long search for new home

Nov 24, 2020 16h04 ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

A unique nonprofit that helps individuals recover from addiction or incarceration has finally found a home. 

Flourish Bakery, a social enterprise of Flourish Ventures, had operated out of Salt Lake Community College for two years. In October 2019, SLCC determined that they needed the space for other programs and Flourish suddenly needed to find a new kitchen. 

The organization spent 10 months looking for a new location, touring multiple buildings throughout the valley. They found the perfect space at 752 W. Center Street in Midvale. The commercial kitchen, formerly occupied by JK’s Indulgence Catering, has plenty of space, countertops, a walk-in refrigerator and commercial mixers.

“This location couldn’t be better,” said Rev. Aimee Altizer, executive director of Flourish Bakery and Flourish Ventures. “If I dared to dream and have everything we needed in one perfect location, that would be this location. We’re discovering Midvale. The old Main Street has beautiful bones, so much history. To be part of the revitalization is very exciting to us.”

Flourish itself is all about revitalizing lives.

“The interns learn culinary and also life skills,” Altizer said. “They learn their personality types and learning styles. There’s empowerment in that process. People that get in trouble in school have different learning styles. They need hands-on experience or to be shown how to physically do things. You often find those individuals in culinary settings and addiction. Flourish helps interns understand their personality type and apply that knowledge to what they’re doing. They’re not just making pie. It’s about understanding oneself in the process of making pie.”

“Aimee recognized that recovery was a revolving door, if they were lucky,” said Rev. Sandra Jones, chair of Flourish’s board of directors. “What seemed to be missing was this bridge, this community of people also in recovery taking this journey. The opportunity to learn a skill that’s needed while earning money, being supported and also held accountable.”

Interns get help creating bank accounts and improving credit scores through a partnership with Fair Credit, another nonprofit organization. Interns are paid $12 an hour for 32 to 40 hours per week, which enables them to pay for their living expenses and manage their own lives.

Flourish also hopes to become a part of Midvale’s community.

“One of the concepts we talked about (while forming the nonprofit) was community,” Jones said. “Not just Flourish, but also the greater community. Have the community meet the interns and dispel myths about people in recovery.”

Interns come from a variety of backgrounds. 

“One of the first graduates was in construction,” Jones said. “It was winter, and she didn’t want to be in the cold. She got very good at decorating cakes.”

Completing an internship at Flourish requires a full year of staying sober while working in the bakery, then completing a three-month externship. So far, two interns have completed the entire program and two are working toward completion. 

Dennis Sisneros has been with Flourish for 14 months due to the interruptions of the COVID-19 outbreak and losing access to a kitchen. He was excited to start working at the new Midvale location, once one change had been made: uncovering a large window that had been blocked off. 

“I wanted the light,” Sisneros said. “There are very few windows in prison.”

Sisneros grew up in West Valley and began using drugs at age 13. He sold drugs for more than a decade and spent six years in prison. 

“I had nothing to fall back on,” Sisneros said. “All I had was using and selling drugs. I was living the criminal lifestyle my whole life. Today, I’m learning a new trade and being 100% accountable for my actions.”

Sisneros has had a lot of firsts since starting at Flourish—his first apartment, first time opening a bank account, first time voting and paying taxes.

“I asked (Aimee) why did you start this?” Sisneros said. “It was simple for her to answer. ‘I’m sick of seeing people die.’ And that’s where I was headed, if I didn’t change my life. A life of institutions or death. I got sick of prison this last time, said I’d do anything to change.”

Sisneros says that he was sober in prison because he had to be. Now he is emotionally sober as well as physically sober because he learned to deal with his demons.

“I will be the third graduate from Flourish,” he said. “I say that with such conviction because I’m in a good place in my head.”

Flourish provides something that Sisneros never had before: stability. 

“Here you always have someone in your corner,” Sisneros said. “Aimee is a minister so we have God in our lives. We say a prayer when done with reflection session. How many of you have a minister that sees you every day of your life?”

When he’s done with his externship, Sisneros wants to return to Flourish as a baker.

“Don’t you want to be an instructor?” wondered Sean Oviatt, an intern who has been with Flourish for two months.

Oviatt took a different path to Flourish. He was a college-educated business owner when he saw his life go downhill quickly after becoming addicted to meth.

“I lost my family. I lost friends,” Oviatt said. “I only spent 13 days in jail. I’m grateful for the legal system, never thought I’d say that. If not for getting caught and the judge saying I needed substance abuse help, I wouldn’t be here.”

Oviatt heard about Flourish from the employment counselor at his halfway house. At 52, he struggled to find employment and jumped at the opportunity to join a program where he wouldn’t be starting over at the bottom.

“I had 10 years of food experience, though they didn’t ask about that,” Oviatt said. “The application asks for three important life events and what I learned from them. That’s the whole application. That lets you know what this is about. (Flourish) takes the disenfranchised, the hopeless. Gives them an opening of light. This is not a job. This is a program to reenter life.”

Soon after moving to the new space, Flourish began taking applications for more interns and instructors. In addition to catering and food truck sales, the bakery opened a storefront adjacent to the kitchen in November.

“Interns learn a full spectrum of pastry and culinary skills and the items in the store will match their training module,” Altizer said. “Custards, pies, fruit tarts, cookies, bread, and new things we have yet to create. People can make purchases and meet the team.”

It may have taken nearly a year for Flourish to find its new location, but everyone agrees it was worth the wait. 

“One of the great things about Flourish, whenever we hit a roadblock, we would just keep going,” Jones said. “Whenever we hit a wall, a door would appear. Even if not the right door, it gave us hope to keep going.”