STOW: The pickle jar on the counter at the Great Harvest Bread Co. is a conduit for God’s work in Haiti.
“We have customers who come in and drop money in that jar every week,” said Rick Sands, who owns the local franchise with his wife of 34 years, Debbi. “Every cent goes to help feed people.”
The money, some $130,000 collected in the jar labeled “Bread 4 Haiti” for more than three years (along with other donations and proceeds from fundraisers), has been used to construct and open a bakery in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. The bakery, which opened last month and employees five Haitians, has experienced sell-outs each day.
“They are actually selling more loaves per day there than I am here,” said Sands, who recently returned from Haiti. “We can’t keep whole wheat on the shelves and pizza is selling off the shelves.”
Sands, who has a heart for feeding the hungry, said God gave him the vision for starting a bakery in a developing nation while he was raking leaves in 2010. The vision became clearer after his wife learned about a vocational school in Haiti that seemed to be a perfect fit for their bakery plan.
“It’s amazing how God gives you everything you need when he gives you a vision. It’s absolutely amazing what God has done,” Debbi Sands said. “We have been blessed to see God’s plan unfold and to see God’s love extended to help people in a place that is so far away.”
The bakery in Haiti is located on the property of Institution Univers, a Christian school that provides academic programs for 2,400 students ranging from pre-kindergarten through grade 13 (there are 13 grades in the French system) and a medical clinic. In addition to providing whole grain bread for a breakfast program at the school, the bakery will be used to train vocational education students at Institution Univers and to offer nutrition education.
Now that the bakery is in operation, future plans include providing bread at wholesale prices to people in the community to start their own businesses. There have also been conversations about starting other bakeries in the developing nation.
The $130,000 that was collected fell short of the $150,000 goal that was needed to make the bakery a reality and stock it with a year’s supply of premium ingredients. The shortfall caused the Sandses to make an adjustment in the amount of ingredients that were sent to Haiti. It is their hope that the bakery will be self-sufficient within a year.
To help keep the shelves in Haiti stocked with ingredients, donations are still being collected in the pickle jar at the local store, located at 4058 Fishcreek Road in the Oregon Trails Plaza. Donations can also be made via the Sandses’ church, Christ Community Chapel, 750 W. Streetsboro Road, Hudson, 44236. Checks should be made payable to Christ Community Chapel, with Bread 4 Haiti on the memo line. The Sandses, who display photos of their trips to Haiti on a board near the door at their business, can be reached at 330-688-8894.
“The bakery is an example of what can happen when you throw yourself out there and say ‘God use me,’ with a sincere heart,” Rick Sands said. “God has blessed us to be able to walk alongside him and see him at work. It’s been really special and we’ll see where [God] takes us from here.”