Angel Baked Cookies Provides Youth with Work and Spiritual Training
“It gives them job training as well as spiritual training,” Meier said. “It teaches them how to be a good person.”
Though Angel Baked Cookies is located in a Catholic church and many of the employees worship in that religion, everyone is welcome who is willing to do the work and obey the rules.
“Not about religion at all,” Meier said. “It's about spirit and strengthening their spiritual life.”
One of the main requirements is that employees stay in school. Now in its fourth year of business, Angel Baked Cookies has a 100 percent graduation rate with its student employees.
Angels are required to participate in workshops to help them improve in other aspects of their lives.
“It gives teens the power to make a choice: to be on the streets or make job references and be a part of a team,” said Eric Whittaker, a 19-year old Angel.
Angel Baked Cookies hires up to 10 high school students in their junior year and continues with eight during the summer. The program started in spring 2007 and only had three students working in the kitchen.
“The first group we called the ‘Original Angels,’” said Lora Moore, an Original Angel and now the company’s assistant manager.
Angel Baked Cookies started off as an experimental program answering the voice of neighborhood youth. Moore described getting the idea off the ground as successful bribery. For a block unit meeting in the North Grand neighborhood, Meier promised food if people showed up. Thirteen teenagers came to the meeting.
“We asked for jobs in the neighborhood,” Moore said. “We also wanted a safer place to get snacks after school without dealing with drugs, being stabbed or shot at.”
After talking to everyone in the neighborhood, planning was the next step. Many of the ideas didn’t work. Baking and selling cookies sounded like a comparatively simple idea, Meier said.
“I have done a lot of chocolate chip cookie research,” Meier said.
The teenagers in the neighborhood were skeptical when first starting out. The Original Angels didn’t know how to make cookies and didn't know where to sell them. Moore was one of the skeptical Angels.
“You're going to pay me to play around in dough?” Moore said.
Angel Baked Cookies started off with a survey of who liked what type of cookies. People responded with sugar, oatmeal, chocolate chip and peanut. Due to allergies, the peanut butter cookie didn't make the cut. The sugar cookie eventually crumbled because it was baking too big or too small. Now Angel Baked Cookies packages and delivers chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.
“I gained 10 pounds working at Angel Baked during the trial and error at baking the cookies,” Moore said.
Carla Jones, the kitchen manager at the company, has been involved in other services in the neighborhood and re-joined the cookie crew in October 2010. “I like working with the teens a lot, they bring a lot of energy and fun to the workplace,” Jones said.
The Angels have a rotating schedule. The crew is split up into two sections. Half of the crew works on Monday and Wednesday, and the others work on Tuesday and Thursday.
Dough is made during the beginning of the week and formed with ice cream scoopers. Several cookies are smashed at one time, and then the Angels put non-stick spray on metal trays and line the trays with frozen cookies to be put in the oven. Once the cookies are taken out of the oven and cooled, they are packaged and delivered.
"We do our own deliveries," Jones said.
Angel Baked Cookies are sold in over 10 different locations in St. Louis, including Straub's Grocery, McMurphy's Grill, Local Harvest Grocery and Northwest Coffee.
Employees are paid every two weeks.
“It feels good to help pay the bills at home and buy my own stuff and depend on no one else,” said Richoun Fuller, the youngest Angel on staff this summer.
They accept that they have to leave the business after graduation. Jamala Wallace, an Angel and graduated senior from Rosati-Kain High School, is leaving crew this summer. Wallace said, “I am a little disappointed because I don't know where I'll work, but I'm more prepared and it will sound more impressive when I'm applying to a new job.”
For more information about Angel Baked Cookies, visit http://www.angelbaked.org/index.html.
Angel Baked Cookies
Richoun Fuller, a student at Construction Career Academy; Lora Moore, one of the “Original Angels”; Jamala Wallace, a student at Rosati-Kain High School; and Eric Whitaker, a student at Vashon High School, working on a batch Angel Baked Cookies. The kitchen is in the basement of Saints Teresa and Bridget Catholic Church, 2401 N. Grand Blvd. Photo by Wiley Price