Edmonton online bakery offers experience for youth facing barriers to work

·3 min read

The TYP TOP Bakery got its start, appropriately, over coffee at Holy Trinity Church.

The work program for youth who face barriers to employment, was created by Clark Hardy who noticed the employment programs he'd refer young people to ran Monday to Friday, a schedule not easy for everyone to take on.

Hardy, an outreach youth coordinator at the church in Old Strathcona, had been looking to find ways to make employment programs more accessible.

"I was like, how can we change this to make this more accessible for more youth who are facing difficult circumstances on a regular basis and might not be able to commit to a full eight-hour shift or 30 to 40 hours a week?" said Hardy who was interviewed on CBC Radio Active on Thursday.

Nearly two years later, the project has snowballed to provide work opportunities for 50 to 60 young people around Edmonton.

The bakery, which started in February 2019 as a project between Hardy and two or three young people for a few hours a week using his family recipes, now takes online preorders, selling the baked goods in farmers markets, at local cafes like The Grizzlar and Lui-Chi's, and to organizations like the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Police Service.

Supplied by Clark Hardy
Supplied by Clark Hardy

Over the holiday season last year, Hardy said, the bakery worked on orders as large as 250 pounds of shortbread for a group in Onoway, and 70 dozen pretzels for the Edmonton Christmas Market.

"It went from just grandma's recipe every couples week to kind of full time," Hardy said.

The program is funded by donations, sales, Holy Trinity Church and the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton, Hardy's employer.

The goal is for the bakery to eventually grow to the point it can support itself, Hardy said.

Participants may only stay for a few months to meet other volunteer hour requirements they have, while others like Shy-Lee Dimitra Georgiadis have been a part of the program since day one.

Georgiadis had dreams of being a baker, but felt she had no way of pursuing them.

"I like being creative. So I like baking and I love decorating, so I love doing cupcakes and cakes, they're my favourite," Georgiadis said. "It's relaxing too."

She wanted to go to NAIT for schooling, but it was too expensive.

When she met Hardy, she had been homeless for a couple of years. She now works 10 to 15 hours at TYP TOP, which with another part-time job allows her to pay rent and care for herself and her daughter.

She's also pursuing her Red Seal in order to be a professional baker.

Hardy was put in touch with Kelsey Johnson, chef at Cafe Linnea, to provide more experienced direction to TYP TOP's bakers, as he had no background in baking himself.

Johnson's involvement has opened more doors for the bakery to partner with other businesses around the city. And it's opened doors for participants like Georgiadis, who is being mentored by Johnson.

"It's been really helpful that she came along," Georgiadis said.

And while Georgiadis would love to have her own bakery, she says, "I feel like that's a little bit too big of a dream, so I'd be happy just being a baker."