While making the documentary about Homeboy Industries (with Megan and Wesley) and their life-changing services and experiences they offer to former gang members and others effected by the gang life, Wesley and I had the opportunity to interview Father Greg Boyle (the founder of Homeboy), interview Vance Webster (a former Crip member), and take a holistic tour of the facilities that have been a beacon of hope since 1988.
The overall Homeboy experience was truly eye-opening. But I found a abundance of love, happiness, hope and change in the strangest of places: the back-building bakery.
We met a man named Chino and had the pleasure of speaking with him on-camera. During our short interview with him, he had a giggling baby girl in his arms and had an ear-to-ear grin that only grew and glowed when talking about Homeboy changed his life.
Later that day, Wesley and I were trying to get a shot of the action inside the bakery through the window toward the end of our day at the facilities. Chino recognized us, waved, abandoned his work with a huge mass of dough and invited us inside.
Once inside the bakery, were were greeted with various other bakers who welcomed us warmly along with sugary sweet smell of the fresh-out-the-oven cinnamon bread. We were then introduced to the head baker and were taken through the great expanse of industrious creativity and pure joy. From sourdough, baguettes, and jalapeño bread to gourmet cakes, scones, and candy-colored cupcakes, the bakers worked diligently and with heart to produce delicious treats.
By the walk-in ovens that seemed that seemed to churning out a different kind of bread every 5 minutes, we met 19 year old Gustavo. He found Homeboy when he was 16, before he was about to get involved in “gang-banging.” He explained how Homeboy saved him from the wrong road by keeping him in the bakery rather on the streets during his time in high school. Gustavo successfully graduated in 2012, and is now working full time in the bakery and is majoring in electrical engineering as a freshman in college.
Gustavo and Chino then gave us samples of their carrot cake (the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten) and their very popular cinnamon bread, whose aroma seemed to be everywhere in the bakery that day.
But looking back, perhaps the cinnamon bread wasn’t the only thing that was sweet in the atmosphere. Wesley and I observed Chino, Gustavo, and others working together, laughing together, and producing something something great together. I saw smiles on the faces of those who have experienced the harsher side of life. I saw hands that were used years before to harm, destroy or even kill now being used to create and build for a common cause.
The Bakery Boys say that the principles of Homeboy Industries has truly stuck with them. As for me, The Bakery Boys’ hospitality, love, achievements, acceptance, and stories will undoubtedly stick with me for a very, very long time.