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Increase Work Experience

“The bakery has allowed us to be a part of change in many lives.  It is such a blessing to be involved with something so much bigger than we ever imagined.” --Madelyn Russ

Open Hearts Bakery

Morganton, NC

Burke County

A church with a self-sustaining business is uncommon. That is what makes Open Hearts Bakery of St. Mathews United Methodist Church so unique. Bakery profits cover all their operational needs (ingredients, utilities, etc.) and even support their church's local and international missions. More notably, Open Hearts provides part-time employment for individuals who are economically disadvantaged and/or face barriers to employment.

When the bakery first started, profits earned went to support people with their emergency needs. That all changed when the new pastor led a book study on Toxic Charity by Richard Lupton. The book changed many members’ perspectives – they wanted to focus on creating something that made a lasting impact on the lives of people they were serving.  Open Hearts decided that, in addition to volunteers, they would employ people from their community who were struggling financially or facing barriers to employment.  They find workers by word of mouth and referrals from partner organizations, employing 3-5 part-time workers per season (about nine months).  Open Hearts acts as a hand-up for people until they find something more permanent. By acting as a vehicle for change, Open Hearts is putting individuals in charge of their own lives, able to make the change they want.


Madelyn Russ, Open Hearts Bakery Coordinator, is grateful for the relationship they’ve built with people from all walks of life -- today, people know them as the “bread church”. In support of their local food economy, the bakery source many of their ingredients locally, buying directly from farmers and producers in the surrounding area.

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If you are interested in creating a ministry with a self-sustaining business, here are some things to consider:

  • Determine what product(s) or service(s) you want to sell. Think about the assets you already have (kitchen space, land, equipment, etc.), as well as the talents and expertise of your members. 

  • Have a business plan, which states purpose, priorities, strategies, a protocol for operation, and financial management.

  • Have a ministry and a community that supports your mission.

  • Determine where you will sell your product or service – a location or online?

  • Identify dedicated volunteers and consider paying stipends.

  • Have patience and compassion when working with people from different backgrounds. It is also good to partner with other groups that also work with your recruits (i.e: Vocational Rehabilitation Services





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