The Breaktime Bakery: An Ongoing Story of Creative Neighborhood Engagement

Wayne Squires-PiNT

The Breaktime Bakery is a youth entrepreneurship program of New City Neighbors,a small nonprofit located in the Creston neighborhood of Grand Rapids, MI.  For seven weeks each summer, 12-15 Jr. High School students in the neighborhood are taught basic job skills that increase their chances of succeeding in the work place.  A video highlighting this effort can be seen on the CFA website.

The emergence and development of this bakery is, in many ways, a typical story of Partners in Neighborhood Transformation, a regional coaching/training ministry that assists community leaders and organizations in the implementation of asset-based principles and practices.  Several years ago, a PiNT coach guided Fourth Reformed Church through a neighborhood discovery process that resulted in a community-oriented action plan.  The action plan linked a strong youth ministry at Fourth with neighborhood opportunities for youth development and included the formation of a new nonprofit focused on this linkage.  As a result, New City Neighbors was established, with the bakery, a community garden, and an urban farm emerging as key strategies of engagement.

The sustained coaching involvement of PiNT (then the Equipping Church Network of Volunteers in Service) remains in the background, but the presence of those who are skilled in ABCD training, coaching, mentoring, and facilitation has helped create a neighborhood environment of collaboration and participation.  This has led to residents and organizational leaders taking greater responsibility for the development of neighborhood youth and the improvement of physical places.

The Breaktime Bakery recently inaugurated its 7th season.  As  PiNT Coach, I recently sat down with Eric Schalk, Executive Director of New City Neighbors and Leader of Breaktime, to get an update of progress.  Eric reports the bakery continues to build participants’ self-confidence and gives a positive trajectory to many individual stories.  Nearly 60 local students have been involved over the years, and most have graduated from High School (or are “on track” to graduate).  Several have sustained relationships with Eric and other mentors, and some have gone on to local culinary schools to hone their skills and passion for preparing good, fresh food(s).

The challenge of imparting basic skills (i.e. measuring food ingredients for recipes), teaching teamwork, and dealing with conflict is an annual reality, but the involvement of parents and other neighborhood stakeholders has helped meet this challenge and build greater capacity for good work.  Connections have been made to the community garden and urban farm so that locally grown items are used in many of the baking goods and five high school students are being employed as a key step toward a trade school or college education.  The presence of a college intern and volunteer mentors has strengthened relational trust and program efficiency.  Parents and neighbors and local stakeholders purchase enough baked goods to ensure a good-sized net profit at the end of the seven weeks.

Eric is already thinking not only of implementing future improvements but also of fulfilling significant hopes and dreams.  Improvements include developing more mentors for follow-up interaction and providing more structure/resources for job skills training.  Dreams include a big increase in bakery participants, a year-round effort that provides employment for neighborhood youth and adults, and the purchase of a retail space in the Creston business district.  Who knows how long it will take for these hopes to be translated into actual circumstances?  However, one can be assured that PiNT will be a supportive, encouraging presence to Eric and his team at New City Neighbors as they seek to identify and develop the assets, gifts, and skills of those in their community.

John McKnight: Taking Back Our Children

This video was originally posted at  


John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

Friday Food For Thought: Teens and Transformation

A recent post at highlighted the often overlooked giftedness of teens within a community.  We read in the local paper about “troubled youth” and the rising concern over teen apathy, but many teens have found ways to add to the neighborhood story in a positive way.  (And, my guess is that many more would join in if given the opportunity).

The post, written by Laura Fulton, points out the value and energy that teenage youth and enthusiasm can bring to a neighborhood, and five ways to start the process of connecting with teens in your area.  One commenter said that teens in her neighborhood are employed to do community listening and connecting.  Imagine a part-time job where a teen’s voice and ideas are heard, creativity and socializing are viewed as gifts, and relationships and leadership skills are formed.  Sounds like a perfect match!

Teens today are often typecast as surly, disinterested, and uninformed.  I challenge you to talk to a teen in your neighborhood. Ask about their interests, about what they see that works and doesn’t work, and what they would do to change things.  Listen.  Listen.  Listen for their gifts and passions, and begin to rewrite the character description of young people in your neighborhood’s story.

Getting a short term focus. One S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Andy Batten – Lighthouse INC – OH

Many of the mapping parents are helping design and lead a summer leadership camp. The project will work to develop a team of young people to develop a plan and execute it as a team. Hope this will bring a DeVos project together in Cleveland. These are the notes of the visioning session #1:

Summer Collaboration – VISION:
Develop a youth development model that is multi- generational that involves youth, parents and providers in design, execution, and evaluation.

A successful summer youth program built on the power of “WE”.

There was a great deal that we learned at our first meeting. Now that we have a “Big Picture” dream and a focused short term goal we need to get specific.

Once we answer these questions about our goals we can have a clear plan in place that allows us to move from ideas, to plan, into execution.

We need to decide who wants to continue the conversation about how we move forward. Time is short, so we need to finalize this first project.

Specific goal. The specific goal is to execute a 5 week summer leadership program with the shared resources of our “network”.

Measurable: The program will meet from July 5th to August 5th and will focus on no more than 50 students and end with a back to school basketball camp. What are the goals that we want to measure????

Achievable Are we committed to make sure this is done as planned? Can we realistically make this happen with what resources and people we currently have in place?

Realistic Are our goals something that we can reasonably do? Do the things we work towards make a real difference? Will anyone notice if we decided not to proceed?

Time Bound What is the timeline for us to get started? How do we know when we are finished? How do we transition out and celebrate the success? What is the detailed schedule of activities for each day and hour?


1. Explore Possibilities  2. Understand Opportunities    3. Discover Resources

LOAVES and FISHES  (The resources that we already have.)

1. Curriculum
2. Staff,youth coordinators
3. Participate
4. Volunteers, teach history
5. Drill
6. Smile, helping hand
7. Recruiting – ABCD Mapping
8. Time to volunteer
9. Volunteer network
11. Resource network
12. Food SFSP
13. 15 Passenger van
14. Neighbor Circle
15. Space
16. DeVos Leadership Plan

THE GAPS (Things that we still need.)
1. Gas Money
Core to the strategy is a weekly field trip. There is a need for gas money to cover the transportation costs.
2. Lonnie Burton
Because there are so many kids and a wide variety of ages we need to include Lonnie Burton in the planning and execution as part of the partnerships.
3. Space at Cedar
With so many kids already in the networks care, we need to find a space that will allow Cedar’s young
people to participate in the activities. Time and space are key concerns.
4. Coordinated efforts.
With the many projects working together it is going to be key. The need for solid planning and consistent communication is critical. A working calender with details clearly spelled out is a must if we can move forward.
5. Celebrating together

Uncovering the dreams:

Successful summer program.
To find a way to come together this summer to deliver a vibrant program for the young people that are in our network, residents of Central, or CMHA.
Holistic youth Development
Develop a process that works to surround young people with people not programs in way that models a family environment and fosters growth.
Quality programs for all of CMHA’s youth.
To develop a program at Outhwaite that can be delivered at all CMHA family estates that work as part of a continuum of care.
We will be intentional to include parents, grandparents, and the communities wisdom as a key to creating sustainable and meaningful connections.
Focus on Children
With so many needs that can distract this group, we will focus our efforts on the Children and youth believing that an investment in our young people is an investment in our future.
Raise a new standard for Central kids
We are tiered of passing sub- standard projects, expectations, and results off as success. In order to prepare our young people for life, we need to challenge them to set goals and standards that will allow them to succeed. We have to be honest and face the cold hard facts if we want to see things improve.
That this is only a first step toward a big Dream.
No matter how successful the summer is or how much struggle we face we understand that this is only a first of many steps that we must take together that will lead to our dream for the preferred future.

Owning the Change

Al Santino – Northeast Community Transformation

Safe Haven’s mission statement is “to effectively love, serve and empower youth in the context of their community by educating and equipping them spiritually, creatively and intellectually, that they may own the change happening in Newark.” This mission reflects a participation in God’s eternal plan to reconcile and restore all of his creation through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul affirms this in Colossians 1:20 when he states, “and through him [Jesus Christ] to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” This making of peace, or shalom, through thePrince of Peace is the working of God’s kingdom to reconcile people to Himself. It is also the work of the kingdom that restores people, communities, socio-political structures and nature itself to the image of their Creator. As God’s people participate in mercy, justice, and community development, they shine forth the light of the Kingdom; a “foretaste” of the ultimate restoration of all things when Jesus returns as triumphant King.

In the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark, this light shines as Safe Haven employs teenagers and young adults from the community for their after school program and mentors them in their spiritual and social development. Growing in work responsibility, sound values, and learning how to serve the children, these teens are helping the young people to own the change in their community. Several of them have been doing surveys and speaking with other youth as to how they can own the change in their community that will result in more educational, recreational and social opportunities. Rashim has the opportunity to use his artistic gifts to teach children in the after school program. Martin is helping to organize a boxing program that will utilize discipline to help young people address important life issues. Eric Morgan, the Crossover Teen Ministry leader, is mentoring several young people who he hopes will eventually own the change as leaders in this ministry. God is planting seeds of shalom that are growing to bring transformation to this community. His kingdom is on the move in Newark!

Recreational Opportunities For Children and Youth Work Team

Eric Smith – Think Tank

Over the course of a week, from March 21 to March 28, a core group of Lincoln residents came together to discuss one of the issues that the community had described as being a top priority for the neighborhood – increased recreational opportunities for children and youth.

During the first meeting, the group described the issue and then brainstormed and organized possible solutions (see below). At a follow-up meeting, the group developed priority areas and action plans to implement the change they wanted to see. Their plan called for the creation of two work groups – the Bobcat Elites work group with a focus on athletics and the Promise Fundraisers with a focus on resource development.

In the three weeks since this community action group formed, the Bobcat Elites work group has further developed their plan and met with the appropriate leaders at the local Elementary School where they intend to hold twice-weekly sports clinics and organized play time on Saturdays. They have been busy recruiting volunteer coaches in order to be able to offer the program for free to area children and youth. They are also seeking out curricula to integrate team-building and character building lessons into their sports activities.

Meanwhile, the Promise Fundraisers work group has begun to further develop strategies for raising money to, among other things, cover the cost of purchasing sports equipment. Plans are in the works for fundraisers like cookouts with a “Promise” menu, community garage sales, and more.

What a fun example of what can be accomplished when residents gather around the issue that they care about enough to act on!


March 21, 2011



Field Trips



Community Gatherings

Fun & Games

Weekly sports leagues Building items together to bring in math skills Bring life back to South – some activities Fitness classes Toy/clothing drive Block parties Field day competitions
Sportsmanship camp Discipline Fishing, museums, parks YMCA Concessions @ events Dances Kite flying
Sports camps Teenage workforce Nature hunt Selling dinners Include parents to build confidence and community Cornhole toss activities
Volleyball, flag football, whiffle ball Trail biking Hot dog stands Community gardening (teach to grow their own) Family outings
Free sports activities Field trips (as reward) Fund raising Gardening Arts and crafts as day camps
Day trips (as reward) Arts and crafts

Developing the Next Generation- Johnny and Geo




At first glance Geo and Johnny don’t seem like the volunteering-on-the-weekend-kind-of-kids, but the neighbors of the Center St Community know differently. As the Neighborhood Action Committee Manos a la Obra planned a small garage sale to raise funds for their Hope Community Center, volunteers were scarce. Then Johnny and Geo stepped up to serve their community.


While waking up at 6:30 am on a Saturday is a stretch for most high school students, they shared that helping the moms out on Saturday morning was “chill” and would like to do it again. Volunteering at the garage sale opened a new interest in Geo and Johnny, and they are now volunteering as tutors at Step-Up program and helping in the Mika office.

The neighborhood leaders from Center St are involving their children and young adults as part of the neighborhood transformation by exposing the young generation to opportunities to participate and help out their community. Developing youth who are engaged is very important to the Center St. leaders. They have been inviting teens to participate and share the Vision that they have for the future generation of Center St. citizens.

Juval Flores MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Going Deep In Partnership

Northeast Community Transformation is excited to announce a new venture in our collaborative partnership with Safe Haven Urban Redemption in Newark, NJ.

Safe Haven is a youth development ministry affiliated with Trinity Reformed Church (Reformed Church in America) in the Ironbound community.  Their mission is to empower youth and their families to be the spiritual and social change agents of their community.  This is being accomplished through ministries such as after school, teen employment, arts and music, summer camp, and partnerships with the local school, parents association and health clinic.

Founder and Director Danny Iverson, who has become a dear colleague and friend to Al Santino, is embarking on seminary studies in Florida and will be working long distance.

To help fill is some of the gaps, Al will serve as community development Strategy Coach for six hours per week for the year July, 2010-June 2011.  His role will be to encourage the staff  in developing creative community focused programs and leadership skills.  We believe this going deep” partnership will be a blessing to both NECT and Safe Haven as we give and receive from each other the expertise, gifts, and synergy to work for God’s Kingdom coming to the Newark Ironbound community.

Please pray for this partnership as it represents a deeper level of engagement for NECT that could serve as a model for a strategic focus for empowering our partners and their communities.

Al has been meeting with a group of summer teen employees to discuss how they can own the change in their community through persuading their peers to come together to work together on issues which are critical to their well being.

Some of the issues raised by the teens included  having a safe place for socializing and recreation and using music as a positive, creative force for good.

Al encouraged them to see their job at the Safe Haven summer youth program as an opportunity to grow in community as they affirm each other’s gifts and abilities.

One young person commented that he came to make a few dollars but now is actually enjoying working with the children.

Safe Haven Community Coordinator Jason Bundy will be following up with the youth to help them “own the change”.

My Neighbor Is My Youth Group

I started teaching ESL and being the “youth worker” at Upward Bound Study Center in Monterey Park this week (a program reaching out to low immigrant Chinese high school youth), had a discussion with a local church about their desire to restart their youth group with an emphasis on reaching community kids, and had my recently graduated mentee from our Believe mentoring program randomly stop by Friday night with his friends to chill out while they were running (to exercise).

All my previous times with youth was in a church culture with church kids (I was reminded of this Saturday when I saw my old church’s youth go off to their annual camp retreat). But now I’m in a completely different situation where most of these kids aren’t believers. And I’m loving this opportunity because I feel like this is the missional edge we are called to as the Church.

I’ve often said that youth pastors in our cities should view these neighborhood kids as their youth group, instead of just those who go to their church programs. It’s a practical way of working out that old idea that the neighborhood your church is in is your parish. A parish mentality begins with the belief that all those located around your church meeting place is of concern, whether or not they attend your church, whether or not they are believers. But typically, a youth worker is hired to take care of the kids who come to church first and then maybe try and attract more kids to go to their group (like the picture implies).

This attractional model of youth ministry (“build something great and they will come”) won’t die out anytime soon. And I know firsthand that most churches won’t sign on to a completely “missional” model if it doesn’t benefit the church kids and the youth group program. I also know that many church kids are nominal at best, and that we can’t assume they are all followers of Jesus. We all know the tensions and perils of youth ministry.

But if Jesus came to “seek and save the lost,” couldn’t we write in the job description of each youth pastor or worker something that reflects that same heart Jesus had for the lost? Volunteer at the Boys and Girls club? Mentor an at-risk student? Teach ESL to the low-income immigrant students at Mark Keppel? Let’s not leave outreach and mission to some summer trip or camp or think that it’s up to the kids in the youth group. Leadership has to…..well, lead the way!

by Jesse Chang, Kingdom Causes

BreakTime Bakery

BreakTime Bakery from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

BreakTime Bakery is a bakery that is run by kids during the summer. Instead of just sitting around and playing video games all summer the middle school students bake a variety of goods including cookies, cheese cakes, breads, bars, scones, and fudge. The kids sell their products and in the process learn responsibility, new skills, and of course new recipes!
Posted: Sept. 6, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
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Kingdom Causes Receives Letter of Appreciation

Dear Kingdom Causes,

I wanted to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to you for helping to make our District-wide Middle School Math Madness and English Extravaganza competitions a tremendous success.  Thanks in large part to your efforts, our students were treated to a first-class event to recognize their hard work in the classroom.  By providing valuable volunteer services, as well as nutritious snacks for this memorable day, your time, talent and treasures provided the foundation for an unforgettable academic competition for over 800 students and their families.

By all accounts, this year’s academic competitions exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Countless family members joined students, staff and community members to cheer-on our students.  While we have been fortunate to enjoy this high level of enthusiasm and participation for athletic events, I know you will agree that it is inspiring to see this type of support and encouragement for students who are determined to be champions in the classroom as well.

Thank you again for being an integral part of our District-wide Middle School Math Madness and English Extravaganza Competitions.  This wonderful event simply could not have come together without the determination of dedicated community partners, such as Kingdom Causes.  I am quite confident that the smiles on students’ and families’ faces, and the sense of pride that comes from participating in such a unique event, will remain with us all for a very long time to come.  We look forward to working with your organization again, as we continue to provide world-class education for every student, every day.

Gwendolyn H. Mathews, Ph.D
Assistant Superintendent

Visit Kingdom Causes website by clicking here.

Visit Kingdom Causes: Longbeach blog here.

Visit Kingdom Causes: Longbeach website here.

Solid House for Boys Update

As the boys are growing older (more than half are now in junior high), it has been both rewarding and challenging to watch their interests change along with their ages.  Issues like skateboarding, girls and parties frequent our conversations more than ever before, revealing their growing need for acceptance and to fit in.

Since the start of the school year, the boys have had the opportunity to participate in many activities in, and outside of, the neighborhood.  These have included building skate ramps, fishing at the Newport Beach Pier, and exhibiting culinary creativity by cooking meals with items exclusively from the 99¢ store.

Since the start of the Solid House, it has been the same six boys who have been involved.  There have been certain occasions in which other kids would join us, but never permanently.  Javier, a local junior higher that wasn’t an original Solid House boy, began coming around more often during our weekly meetings this summer.  I could not make myself tell him not to come; over time his presence just fit sort of naturally.  We began to serve up an extra plate of food and make extra room in the van when going on trips.  I guess you could say he has sort of joined the group.  There was no official introduction or talk with the other boys, but I found it impossible to turn away someone so obviously starving for attention and/or a different routine.

Please pray for Javier.  He is constantly forced to deal with issues that no thirteen-year-old kid should ever have to face.  Please pray for the other boys as well, as they approach some of the most awkward stages of their lives.

Matt Anderson, Solid House Boys Director/Teen Center Director

Visit Solidarity’s website by clicking here.

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The Right Tool

“Get the right tool,” my dad would often yell when I used the back of a screwdriver as a hammer or my nails as tweezers.  It was easy for him to say. He had a whole garage full of tools. I was just grabbing for whatever was closest and quickest to get the job done.

Last night when I pulled into my carport I was assaulted by the most vulgar graffitti covering the whole wall in front of me. The kids upstairs have been a problem in the neighborhood for a while. Everybody has been complaining about them. I haven’t seen an adult come or go from the apartment in weeks. Last night it became clear that I couldn’t put off a conversation with them any longer.

I hauled myself up the stairs, stepped over the make shift dog gate, and entered the living room filled with two bunkbeds and the backseat of a mini van acting as a sofa. Five teenagers stared at me as I sat down on the “couch”, a dog on each side of me. “Who’s going to paint downstairs and when?,” I said, skipping over any chit chat.

“It wasn’t us,” one of the girls said.

“I didn’t ask if it was you. I asked when you were going to paint it,” I explained. I really didn’t think that they had done it, but it had to be one of their friends that come and go all night long.

“Let’s just paint it now,” the oldest guy said. “I’ll go buy rollers at the 99 cent store.”  He got on his bike and left.

At this point I was pretty surprised. I thought there was going to be more of a fight. I went downstairs to get paint and by the time I got back two of them were standing in the garage with rollers, ready to go. As they painted they began to tell me about themselves, about their family, and their mom being gone all the time. They told me about the kids who did the graffiti and the changes they would like to make. When they finished the garage they went over to the outside wall and started painting over the gang tagging there. They seemed to enjoy the work and sharing about themselves.

As I stood there watching them happily paint, I thought of the focus we place on equipping people in our ministry ( I thought about my dad saying, “Get the right tool.” Here before me I saw how the right tool was bringing out the best in my neighbors. In a simple way, being asked to take responsibility triggered them into action. They were physically equipped with the right tools, but I saw too that they had it in them to do something good, they just needed an opportunity. I wondered if anyone had ever asked them to take responsibility for their building or our community. Chap Clark’s book Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers came to mind.

Clark asserts that adults have abandoned teens, that we have left them to raise themselves. The two painters in front of me seemed to be a glaring example of this. My first idea was to tell them to paint and leave them to figure it out but when the oldest so eagerly rode off to buy rollers, it made me want to get together the rest of the equipment and stick around. And now after our visit I want to stick around more.

Maybe there will be other opportunities to work together or get to know each other. It is convicting to see my own ability to judge and become the cranky lady downstairs. Last night my neighbors gave me a chance to reconsider my view of them. They took my reprimand as an invitation and let me into a sliver of their world. Perhaps we can continue equipping each other with the right tools for loving our community.

Crissy Brooks

For more information on MIKA Community Development Corporation click here.

View the MIKA CDC blog by clicking here.

How Do You Teach Kids to Take Care of Their Neighborhoods?

How Do You Teach Kids to Take Care of Their Neighborhoods? from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

How do you teach kids to take care of their neighborhoods?  Have them keep it clean.
Posted: Sept. 25th, 2007 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Tools: Community
Betterment (1:21)

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How Do You Teach Kids to Save?

How Do You Teach Kids to Save? from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

How do you teach kids to save?  Give them incentives.
Posted: Sept. 25th, 2007 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Tools: Betterment to
Development (1:18)

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How Do You Teach Kids Responsibility?

How Do You Teach Kids Responsibility? from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

How do you teach kids responsibility?  Give them some.
Posted: Sept. 25th, 2007 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Tools: Betterment to
Development (1:19)

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Youth Employment Service (Y.E.S.)

Youth Employment Service (Y.E.S.) from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

The Y.E.S. program offers local youth a first work experience.  Kids  learn work ethic, good saving habits through incentives, and taking pride in their communities through caring.
Posted: Aug. 28th, 2007 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Community Betterment

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