Bridge Bread in St. Louis Devotes Itself to Employing the Homeless

Breaking Bread Together


Credit to Photo Submitted

The owners of Bridge Bread stand in a line behind the counter as they pose for a picture. Bridge Bread is an organization that feeds the homeless and gives them jobs. They bake bread, bagels, cake and brownies daily.

By Gracie Bowman, North Star Entertainment and Opinions Editor

Fred Domke always enjoyed volunteering at the Bridge Outreach Homeless Shelter. After waking up one morning from having a dream about baking bread with the visitors at the homeless shelter, Domke knew he wanted to turn the dream into reality. With the help of his wife Sharon and the head chef at Bridge Bread, Alan Ramsey, they made their first loaves of bread and sold them at Lafayette Park United Methodist Church. Ever since September of 2011, Domke, with the support of his team, has grown the business into an organization that gives the homeless a chance to work.

Bridge Bread is a non-profit bakery that hires the needy as bakers. All the profit from their products goes toward the bakers’ pay, while others in the shop are volunteers that help out. Bridge Bread’s overall goal is for their workers to eventually find secure housing.

“I did it as an act of my faith,” Domke said. “I got the message that taking care of people in need is like taking care of my Lord and savior. That’s what I decided I wanted to do and I think it’s a pretty cool thing to do.”

The bakery sells baked goods such as loaves of bread, bagels, cakes and brownies. The profits made from the goods goes into the employees’ pay. The employees work at $10.15 an hour. According to Domke, two-thirds of the workers they hired are employed and housed years later. Bills for the bakery come from donations made to Bridge Bread.

“We have a success ratio of over 60%,” Domke said. “Looking at the homeless population, we are really proud to have that percentage rate. It’s really something.”

To be eligible for a job at Bridge Bread, the person has to be homeless, has to have been looking for a job already, have no violent criminal record, must be able to work on their feet for several hours a day as well as be able to follow directions and bake. They work at Bridge Bread until they are able to find permanent housing. While the homeless run the kitchen, the store is run by volunteers. Volunteers do everything from making coffee to sweeping floors.

“It’s unique in that it is a program that works to teach homeless people a skill,” board member Maurice Parisien said.

While there is only one location on Cherokee Street in St. Louis, people from different areas have called Domke to incorporate a non-profit like Bridge Bread into their community. Bridge Bread encourages groups from churches and schools to visit their bakery to be introduced to charity and kindness at an early age.

“Beyond the opportunity to meet the bakers and hear their story, it’s also a great product,” Maurice said. “It’s a fun experience.”