Scranton Church Launching Bakery to Help Former Prisoners

SCRANTON, Pa. -- A church in Scranton is getting into the bakery business. It is who the bakery will employ that makes this project unique.

St. Luke's Episcopal Church has been on Wyoming Avenue in downtown Scranton since 1852. Its basement hasn't been occupied for at least the last 15 years of its storied history, but the church has plans to turn the space into a commercial bakery.

It won't be a revenue source for the church. Instead, it will be a nonprofit that hires only former convicts.

"We've got to work through the stereotypes so that we can start welcoming folks back into society that really want to come back and support themselves and their families," said Helen Wolf.

They're modeling the bakery on a similar nonprofit in California. The idea is to provide jobs and training to former convicts who are having trouble getting back into the workforce.

It'll be called Cypress House Bakery.

"We loved the name and the idea of the cypress tree, which is the idea of the sheltering boughs of protection and comfort," said Rev. Rebecca Barnes, St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

Initially, the plan is to have Cypress House be a takeout and delivery place, but the long-term goal is for there to be a storefront along Wyoming Avenue -- a cafe so folks can come and enjoy their meal.

"I think what we want to do is also use the upper floors that are also not utilized, and other than being a reentry housing kind of program, to use that space for counseling and educational programs," Rev. Barnes added.

Cypress House will start baking out of St. Luke's existing kitchen to start. In order to renovate the basement, church officials estimate they'll need to raise about $300,000.

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