Second chances: This bakery is bringing hope back to an old mining town

Generations of Appalachians have relied economically on the coal mines, but now that the coal industry has practically become obsolete, communities are suffering. Unemployment is high and substance abuse is becoming a more pervasive issue. However, not all is bleak in the Appalachian mountains.

In the past year, we’ve written about a couple of positive initiatives bringing hope back to Appalachia. One story from March detailed the rise of adventure tourism such as rafting, which is bringing a new source of income to former coal towns. Another story from last October focused on a new program that teaches displaced coal miners in West Virginia a new trade: beekeeping. Today, we bring you another beacon of light within the Appalachian mountains.

In the town of Jackhorn, Kentucky, Black Sheep Bakery is providing second chances to those who need it most, with steady employment opportunities and job training skills. What started as a volunteer-driven initiative aimed to reconnect locals with Appalachian traditions, like open-fire cooking, has now spun into a successful business. While simultaneously cooking delicious baked goods, the community-owned social enterprise focuses on training the local workforce by providing jobs for previously incarcerated individuals, recovering addicts, and those displaced from the mining industry.

Gwen Johnson, co-founder, and manager of the bakery saw it as an opportunity to begin building a new economy for the region. She describes, “We have created an inclusive place of love and belonging for whoever wants to come… I was always a black sheep in my family, which gave me a heart for others.” Bradley Johnson is one of many locals benefiting from the bakery’s vision. A veteran who fell on hard times became an addict, and spent time incarcerated is now a proud baker. 

The Black Sheep Bakery is still operating despite the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and delivers to community members. The bakery is even offering free bread each night to anyone who needs it. For all of us, Black Sheep Bakery is a textbook example of what every community needs right now: a mission to rally behind and a place where people are treated with dignity.

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Second chances: This bakery is bringing hope back to an old mining town

Generations of Appalachians have relied economically on the coal mines, but now that the coal industry has practically become obsolete, communities are suffering. Unemployment is high and substance abuse is becoming a more pervasive issue. However, not all is bleak in the Appalachian mountains.

In the past year, we’ve written about a couple of positive initiatives bringing hope back to Appalachia. One story from March detailed the rise of adventure tourism such as rafting, which is bringing a new source of income to former coal towns. Another story from last October focused on a new program that teaches displaced coal miners in West Virginia a new trade: beekeeping. Today, we bring you another beacon of light within the Appalachian mountains.

In the town of Jackhorn, Kentucky, Black Sheep Bakery is providing second chances to those who need it most, with steady employment opportunities and job training skills. What started as a volunteer-driven initiative aimed to reconnect locals with Appalachian traditions, like open-fire cooking, has now spun into a successful business. While simultaneously cooking delicious baked goods, the community-owned social enterprise focuses on training the local workforce by providing jobs for previously incarcerated individuals, recovering addicts, and those displaced from the mining industry.

Gwen Johnson, co-founder, and manager of the bakery saw it as an opportunity to begin building a new economy for the region. She describes, “We have created an inclusive place of love and belonging for whoever wants to come… I was always a black sheep in my family, which gave me a heart for others.” Bradley Johnson is one of many locals benefiting from the bakery’s vision. A veteran who fell on hard times became an addict, and spent time incarcerated is now a proud baker. 

The Black Sheep Bakery is still operating despite the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and delivers to community members. The bakery is even offering free bread each night to anyone who needs it. For all of us, Black Sheep Bakery is a textbook example of what every community needs right now: a mission to rally behind and a place where people are treated with dignity.

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