Posts Tagged ‘granola project’

Readers know I’m a fan of the Providence Granola Project, a social enterprise that, by training refugees to make a product, acclimates them to US employment norms and aids their transition to self-sufficiency.

Recently, the organization produced an annual report that explained how it developed a different sort of model for small business, a model they hope others will use or adapt.

Founder Keith Cooper says, “The Providence Granola Project started as an experiment to explore what might help refugees enter the job market. Building a small business seemed like a logical place to start. But what a revelation it has been to discover how nearly every aspect of a small business—from capital to product—can serve a higher purpose.”

The organization’s Big Idea tweaks all the traditional elements of a business.

New hires: workers who are the least prepared, workers the training could really help.

Customers: frequently people who not only like granola but share the mission.

Investors: people whose desired return on investment is the ability to benefit immigrants on their path to becoming contributing members of their new nation.

Work: “repurposed as hands-on education. Making granola is transformed into an experiential classroom.”

Products: delicious foods that are simultaneously tools for raising awareness.

Check out the remarkable variety of granola flavors, granola bars and snacking nuts at the website. You can also sign up for a Granola of the Month package here if you’re up for giving this worthy cause a bit more predictability about resources.

Infographic: Providence Granola Project

Our Big Idea

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Photo: David Wells

A wonderful organization, the Providence Granola Project, has just received some well-deserved attention in the food magazine Edible Rhody. In fact the magazine has prepared a short video that says it all, here.

Nancy Kirsch writes, “Established in 2008, Providence Granola, now part of Beautiful Day (a nonprofit organization founded in 2012), has a three-fold mission, says Providence Granola co-founder Keith Cooper: Provide job training for immigrants in Rhode Island who are unlikely to otherwise find gainful employment, and educate community members about refugees and refugee resettlement, all by making and selling delicious artisanal granola.

“Cooper and his lean professional staff, including Anne Dombrofski, director of strategic partnerships, work out of the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, a co-working space in Davol Square in Providence. …

“Hand labor is done by a small team at Amos House, a soup kitchen and comprehensive social service agency in Providence. …

“The trainees are immigrants—often, but not always, refugees—who have come recently to the United States. They attend classes at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island (Dorcas) and, through its assessment process, have been identified as less likely to find employment within the next year, given their lack of first-language literacy and absence of English skills.

“ ‘If we can speed up someone’s entry into the job market from a year or more to between three and six months … there’s a huge benefit,’ says Cooper.”

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If you are a consumer these days, after Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. I do love Giving Tuesday as there are so many worthy causes to choose from, and you don’t have to go farther than your computer to donate. This year I am torn between a food bank I admire and my favorite refugee nonprofit, although I do love the Granola Project. Maybe I will do something for all three.

But tomorrow is Saturday, and I am headed down to Providence to help Erik with the kids while Suzanne has a Luna & Stella birthstone-jewelry trunk show at Talulah Cooper Boutique on Traverse St, just off Wickenden (12 pm to 5 pm).

While we are on the subject of Luna & Stella (the parent of this blog) you should know that now through Cyber Monday (November 30, 2015) only, you can get 40% off all earrings, plus $20 off orders over $100 anywhere on the website — with code SHOPSMALL.

This season, Suzanne is into mixing her jewelry with some vintage lockets she has found. The ones in the picture are all from the Greater Providence area, long known for jewelry making.

Photo below: Rhode Island Foundation
A Luna & Stella trunk show pictured in a profile at “Our Backyard,” which features Rhode Island people and businesses, here.











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I read the Anatole France short story “Le Jongleur de Notre Dame” in high school French class, and although I have retained only a fuzzy memory of the details, I have a pleasant feeling about the ending.

A poor juggler (jongleur) goes into a church wanting to show his gratitude for something to Mary but feeling he has nothing to offer. Standing before her statue, he decides to present the thing he knows best: juggling. Just when church’s clergy appear and are about to reprimand him, they see the statue bend and reach out to receive the juggler’s gift.

I have blogged recently about gifts that serve a second purpose, like TOMS shoes, which gives a pair of shoes to a needy child when you buy shoes for yourself. Now Suzanne says that Luna & Stella will donate $5 to the Homeless Prenatal Project for every purchase now through December 24. Use the code ANGEL12.

I am still looking for your suggestions about gifts that do good. I myself ordered three of Dancing Deer’s charitable gifts this year. Ten Thousand Villages is, as a fair trade retailer, pretty much all about doing good.

And if you live in Rhode Island, please consider supporting the Granola Project.

For angels only. Birthstone jewelry by Lunaandstella

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Suzanne knows what sorts of stories would be good for this blog. I love one that she passed along at Thanksgiving.

It’s by Elizabeth Rau at East Side Monthly, and it’s about a charitable effort to help refugees acclimate to a new life while working.

“The holidays are upon us. What to do?” asks Rau. “You can drop a ten-spot on useless things … or you can buy a bag of granola made here in Little Rhody.

“This wholesome, mostly organic granola is irresistible: It tastes good and is lovingly whipped up by refugees trying to start over in a country that can be intimidating and tough to figure out.

“The Providence Granola Project was founded by Keith Cooper and Geoff Gordon during a deep talk one night about how to help people who come to America with nothing more than a suitcase.

“Keith, a Yale graduate and former campus minister who lives with his family on the East Side, had one of those aha moments. He’d been making granola for years in his kitchen. Why not turn his hobby into a business and mobilize refugees too? The two friends shook hands. A company was born.

“That was five years ago, and Providence Granola is still going strong. In rented space at the Amos House soup kitchen in South Providence, the company makes 1,000 pounds of granola a month.  …

“For years, Keith worked at the International Institute of Rhode Island, settling refugees here. … Keith was moved by what he saw at the institute — dignified and hard working men and women who want to succeed. With so many obstacles in their way — no money, language barriers, a different culture — you’d expect them to give up. But they don’t.”

Granola has given many of these people a new start. Read more here. And here. Read especially about Zaid Wadia, a 35-year-old Iraqi refugee, determinedly upbeat and grateful despite a very tough past life.

Photograph: image by Ryan T. Conaty

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