By Michelle M / originally published September 1, 2014
Very few Greenpointers can resist the sweet smell of Ovenly’s signature cakes and cookies while walking by the bakery. Ovenly’s founders, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, have not only have fueled Greenpoint’s sweet tooth, but have also made an impact on the New York City community.
In the last year Ovenly has partnered with the Harlem based GOSO program, which stands for Getting out Staying Out. GOSO is a non-profit organization focused on encouraging education and job development for young men who have been formerly involved with the law. Working specifically with men from Riker’s Island and New York’s upstate prison, men aged 18-24 are given the tools they need to find internships and jobs after their completed sentences.
GOSO’s goal is to encourage positive development through education and employment. Geoffrey Golia, a Greenpoint resident, is the Employment and Internship Coordinator for the program. Geoffrey and works tirelessly to develop driven young men and place them in jobs where they can succeed in rebuilding their lives. Ovenly was the first business to start hiring from the GOSO program. Geoffrey’s passion for the program is infectious, “I am most proud of our employment program. I am motivated when I see all the job placements on my board everyday!”
Geoffrey has managed to place 11 men in full time roles and 60 internships since the beginning of the job development program.
While assisting a GOSO participant search for employment, Geoffrey came across a Craigslist ad from Ovenly about a job in the kitchen. Being from the neighborhood, Geoffrey thought it would be a perfect way to fuse local businesses with GOSO’s cause. This sparked a meeting with Erin and Agatha with the idea to implement the GOSO program in the kitchen–they instinctively knew it was a good fit for the bakery. Both women come from a social justice background before opening the bakery: Erin used to work in art management and community development and Agatha has a Master’s degree in social work.
“It is a great way for us to be involved in the New York community. Working with the GOSO program is a great way to find men who are motivated to work without going through the obstacles of posting a Craigslist ad” Erin explained.
Erin stressed the importance of communication while integrating the program into the bakery, “I love working with GOSO because it is so easy to reach out to Geoffrey and have a personal connection. It is so important to foster the relationships with the men and GOSO.”
One of the staff members working in the Ovenly Kitchen is Justin Ramos, a motivated team member who recently was placed through the GOSO program. Working as a packager, Justin manages the kitchen inventory and ensures that the orders of Ovenly’s baked goods are accurate and delivered on time.
“I was inspired by Ovenly’s story. Erin and Agatha started from the bottom and grew the business by working hard” Justin stated.
While in the GOSO program Justin earned his high school diploma and graduated as a salutatorian. Justin first learned about GOSO through an article about a former program member who had successfully found a job after their time in prison. Justin wants to progress and learn the recipe for the business.
“GOSO has helped me develop a 5 year plan. In the future I would like to earn my MBA and start my own business. Ovenly has helped me learn how to be a team player in order to help the business grow.”
As Erin and Agatha continue to build the business and grow their staff, they are always reminded that Ovenly is only as strong as the people who are on the team. “We are most proud of being able to work with a program of social justice and creating jobs within the community.”
Ovenly is located at 31 Greenpoint Ave.
For more information on GOSO contact Info@gosonyc.org