Sweet Things Bakeshop

Program Associate Miladys Ramirez bakes for and helps run the Girls’ Club Brain-Trust and We Mean Business programs. She introduces many of the girls as “she’s like my daughter.” Amanda, Miladys’ niece, never liked cooking before, but now does. Someday she may be a chef or open a restaurant.

Miladys: I started volunteering one December, we were baking cookies, and I just started baking and I thought, it’s really not me, but I’m stuck here. It was okay, because I learned so much, now I know how to bake muffins and how to bake cookies from scratch. 5 years ago I started bringing my girls here, and went from being volunteer, to part-time 3 years, full-time a year.

My two daughters have been through the program, including the one that’s here. I love it because it’s great working with the girls, we teach them business management, duties that you have to do here, setting up. But it’s good for them; they can use this for reference for the future.
The girls come here straight from school, and it gets a little hectic, then it comes down, then it comes back up again. [laughing] We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that, and we have our limits.

Valerie (14) – Manager (and member), supervises girls. Valerie used to come around the bakery at the age of 8 or 9. She helps her mom at home, but doesn’t cook at home anymore because most of the time she’s here.
I wanted to work here, but couldn’t start until I was 13. So I started working last year…. I want to be a doctor. I want to stay here until college. I know I like it here because I’ve been here so long —
I volunteered at Sweet Things for a long time before I officially began working.

Talia (17) – Manager and member expects to be a psychology major, she graduates high school in January.
I have a friend who’s been here 6 years and they were looking for girls and I have been here ever since. I always baked. I used to bake a lot with my mother, and so I was really happy….Spending time with the girls [is one of my favorite things]. I get to interact a lot. Some of us are the same age, but others are, like, 2 years younger and there’s a big difference. You wouldn’t think so, but there is. Before I wanted to go to culinary school, but realized I’m a people person. I can always cook.

June Russell – Head Baker has been in food business about 15 years, and has done everything from cooking, bread-making to bar-tending.
I like the tactile aspect, the physical aspect. [Cooking] was a connection I was seeking. [A typical day involves] keeping everyone busy, we have to put out quality product while teaching the girls and showing them a work environment.

Ngina Duckett – Director of Marketing
I had always baked at home and cooked a lot at home, and during my freshman year at Harvard, my father was saying “we should sell your stuff, just kidding.” But I took one of my products, the sweet potato pie to a healthfood store near the schools and I started making deliveries, and later to the Harvard catering services.

This job is perfect! It combines my interest with business and with baking and I get to teach too, and not only is it very energizing to be around kids, but it forces me to think about the things I’ve learned and break it down into very simple concepts.

I learned to bake just with my mom, and I kind of picked it up. My parents didn’t really didn’t eat sugar and white flour, and we have Fanny Farmer books, so I was always experimenting with different kinds of flours or sweeteners. So I guess I really liked that experimenting part.

Do you see baking as being a big part of your future?
Yeah, I definitely see food. Because I think there is something so basic with the exchange of food, like, to give food to someone and to cook for someone. I guess for me it’s a very big part of how I show my affection or love.