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Laughing Bear Bakery's Mission to Support the Formerly Incarcerated Through Mindfulness with Kalen McAllister

Updated: Mar 26

In this episode, Kalen McAllister speaks with cohost Fleet Maull about the Laughing Bear Bakery and the resources and opportunities it gives those formerly incarcerated.

  • Starting “The Laughing Bear Bakery” business focused on employing ex-prisoners on parole (https://laughingbearbakery.org/)

  • The barriers and rewards to starting a business of this nature

  • Active ways to build self-worth and dignity of parolees in transition


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Podcast Transcript


Fleet Maull: 

Hi! Welcome to another session here at the Prison Mindfulness Summit. My name is Fleet Maull. I'm your co-host for this session. I'm really happy to be here today with Reverend Kalen McAllister. Welcome. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Thank you. Thank you. 


Fleet Maull: 

It's really great to have you. Thank you so much for being part of our summit. I'm going to tell our audience a little bit about your background, and then we'll jump right into the conversation. Sounds good? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Sounds great. 


Fleet Maull: 

Okay. So, Reverend Kalen McAllister is a Zen Buddhist priest based in St. Louis, Missouri, where she has spent years organizing groups of people to fill and distribute backpacks to the homeless. She has spearheaded the publication of Start Here, a resource guide for the homeless, veterans, and released felons. 


She is the former prison chaplain. She also facilitates a meditation group to discover ways to aid men and women in prison and to assist them upon their release. She is the founder of Laughing Bear Bakery, a company that employs former felons and released prisoners. This stemmed from a promise she made to inmates who shared their fears of being released and the challenges they would have in finding employment. Just a little bit on Reverend McAlister's Zen background. She was ordained in 2007. Ryumonji, is that correct? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Ryumonji Monastery. 


Fleet Maull: 

Ryumonji. Ryumonji Monastery, which is in Iowa. She's a longtime practitioner of Zen and was active in the Missouri Zen Center for many years. In 2009, she received an award from the Women's Buddhist Council in Chicago for her work with prisoners in several eastern Missouri prisons. In 2004. She co-founded Inside Dharma, an organization dedicated to assisting prisoners in practical matters as well as supporting their practice of meditation and Buddhism. 


Kalen received Dharma transmission in March 2012 from her teacher, Shoken Winecoff, at Ryumonji Zen Monastery in Iowa and was later formally recognized as a Dharma teacher to the two Soto Zen monasteries in Japan, Eiheiji and Sojiji. Okay. Well, again, thank you for giving your time to be part of the summit. I'm really looking forward to this conversation and learning all about your work, especially the bakery which you're quite renowned for. We'll get to that. 


First of all, tell us a little bit about just your background with Zen and meditation and how you found your way into the path of meditation and Zen. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Okay. I kind of gave up the Christian religion. I think at age 13 or something. I made it through my life and ended up having friends in San Francisco and ended up going to the San Francisco Zen Center. I was very impressed. Came back to St. Louis, but I would look it up and find a Zen Center here. Got busy and didn't do it. This back and forth for several years. 


And then, I had a year in my life where everything went upside down. I had a lot of deaths in my family. I was sued in my business, etc. So, I started looking for the meaning of life. And so I ended up at the Missouri Zen Center under my first teacher Roseanne Yoshida. I was there until about 2009 or so. I started from 1993 to 2009. And then I switched to Shoken Winecoff, who's at Ryumonji and was ordained. And then later, as you said, Dharma was transmitted in Japan. 


Fleet Maull: 

And so then, from there, how did you get interested in prison work? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

When I was still at the Missouri Zen Center, we got a letter from a guy in prison who wanted someone to write to him. Me and one of the guys were supposed to write to him, but he never got around to it. I did. And then the next thing he requested was that I come to visit him. I was scared to death to walk into a prison. But luckily, Thubten Chödron was in town. She was at a temple, a Chinese temple. And so, I expressed to her my fear of going to prison. She said, "I'll go with you." So both of us ended up going up to Bowling Green, Missouri, to the prison. 


We met this gentleman, and he asked us to start a Buddhist group, and Buddhism was not recognized by the state of Missouri at that time. They recognized nine other religions. So, I came back to St. Louis. I gathered up. Well, I talked to the chaplain first and said I wanted to start a group, and he said, "I can't do it in just one prison. You have to do it at all 22 Missouri prisons." So I gathered everybody up that I knew in robes, and we headed for Jefferson City, which is the capital of Missouri. Attended a meeting there and presented our case. It took about a year before they approved this, and then we started going into prisons. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah. Wow. Had Thubten Chödron already begun her prison work at that time? Do you know? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

She had. 


Fleet Maull: 

She'd been doing it for a while. Yeah, that's what I thought. We're very happy she's on our summit as well. I had a great conversation with her, and she said to say hi to you. I'm very happy to hear that you are going to be at the summit. 


So, you got very involved in prison work. Somewhere along the line, you became a prison chaplain. Were you actually working for the Department of Corrections? Or were you a volunteer prison chaplain? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

No, I was actually working for the Department of Corrections. I was like seven years a volunteer. That's called Avec volunteering corrections. I went to about eight different prisons on the side of the state during a month. Some of them weekly, some of them bi-weekly. The further ones, once a month. 


There were three openings for prison chaplains. I applied for all three of them. Didn't even get one. One of the guys, the only reason I didn't get it was he had a doctor's degree, I didn't. So, they hired him. About a month later, he stepped out of it. And so, the deputy warden called me up and said, "It's yours if you want it. You don't even have to interview again." So, I took it. I entered at first as a part-time prison chaplain and absolutely loved it. I love working with the guys. 


This was level four. They change the levels of Missouri now. But at the time, it was levels one through five, five being high security, the highest security. This was level four. I really enjoyed working in prison. They told me that a prison chaplain was just an administrator and that all you did was arrange for other groups to come in. I decided that should be more. So, I started going first of all to de-seg the hole, which I really liked. 


I liked the energy in there. I started printing off materials from the different religious groups, and including games and puzzles, because they're so bored in the hole. And then, I decided to do hospice. So I did hospice. I started doing a lot of different things that a chaplain normally doesn't do. 


I worked as a chaplain for five and a half years and then decided, you know, Farmington is a long way from St. Louis. It's about an hour and a half drive. And so, I'd have to get up at 3:30 in the morning to get there. Leave the house at 4:30 and get there by six. And then I did four days rather than five. So by the time I got home, it was 7 PM and time to eat. Take a shower, go to bed, and get up at 3:30 the next day. 


Fleet Maull: 

Oh, my goodness. Wow. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

After five and a half years, I was getting older and decided to retire. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah. How was that? Was it different from you'd already been going into prison quite a lot as a volunteer when you became a chaplain, and we're actually working for the DLC and had that official position that changed things? It changed how you're perceived or changed the nature of the ministry. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Going in, I was going to be a teacher of Buddhism. As a chaplain, you're not teaching any group. You're just overseeing it. So, we had a Buddhist group, and I got volunteers to come in and run it. But it gave me kind of more openings to reach more people on a different level, perhaps.

 

One thing in Missouri, I would say 80% of the chaplains are Baptist, and probably the other 20% are Church of God. They didn't know what to do with a Buddhist. But the deputy warden, who was my boss, he's an atheist. And so he and I really hit it off. And then, he's still involved in the bakery, very much so. 


Fleet Maull: 

Oh, great. Yeah, great. Yeah. During the years I was in, from '85 to '99, it was still really dominated by Baptists, Evangelicals, and so forth. A lot of antipathy towards other religions. It barely tolerated the Black Muslim groups and, you know, barely tolerated the Native American and the Buddhist and other things, you know, didn't even like the Catholics very much. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Exactly. 


Fleet Maull: 

Well, eventually, we did have a full-time Catholic chaplain. Initially, we just had contract priests that came in. But often, the Catholics were the friendliest towards the Buddhists because they share some contemplative background, at least in parts of Catholicism and so forth. But it really did start to change even while I was there. 


I found it by being in relationships with the chaplains we had, and to the hospice workers, and other things. I was involved with them. For a time, you know, they softened and changed, but a lot of people don't realize that chaplains are actually trained just to meet people where they are. And you know, when you're doing actual ministry as a chaplain, you know, you need to be prepared to really meet anybody where they are, regardless of their faith. And if you need to bring in another resource of somebody's faith, you bring that in. But in prison, as in many prisons, chaplains are mostly just doing paperwork. 


I remember the chaplains at the federal prison where I lamented that they had very little time to do ministry. They would get up and go do the rounds, trying to get up into the hospital because it's a federal prison hospital. But they were just mired in paperwork a lot of the time dealing with all the requests, all the religious requests, and all the different groups trying to come in and out and all that kind, lawsuits and all the rest of it. 


And so I don't think people always have a clear idea of what prison chaplaincy is, but it sounds like you were able, nonetheless, to have that be a vehicle for you to actually connect with the men there. I assume these are all-male prisons. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

It was, yeah. 


Fleet Maull: 

So, to really connect with the men and have some kind of influence, some kind of positive influence. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Yeah. I really enjoyed working with the men. I didn't care what religion they were. I met them where they were coming from. And the guilt they were feeling, a lot of things like that. I was very appreciative of going in the hole. Most guys said they've never seen a chaplain even enter the hole. And so, it was a regular thing. We had four units in de-deg, and I would do two a week, one every night, and then I would go do hospice before I left. 


Fleet Maull: 

Wow. I mean, I hope we're going to have a very large audience to this summit and beyond just the people already doing this work, and so that they really get, you know, in terms of the people are doing the work, it's kind of we're kind of talking to the choir, but people often don't realize how dedicated prison volunteers are. 


I mean, like your situation where you get up at 3:30 in the morning, and it's even when you were an employee, but I'm sure it was similar as a volunteer, driving long ways to get to these prisons that are often set in out of the way rural areas, and you can drive three or four hours, and you know, then be turned away because your paperwork is not right, and all the rest of it. 


I mean, I'm just so humbled all the time by all the amazing prison volunteers that are all over the country that have such dedication to bringing the Dharma, bringing meditation and just bringing humanity into our prisons and jails. I just really applaud you for your many, many years of service and dedication. Really, thank you for that. 


So at some point, you know, you got inspired to start this bakery, and you're really well known for that today. I read in your bio that you'd also been involved in supporting people who found themselves homeless in different ways. You've had a lot of different kinds of ministry going on. So how did all this evolve into starting a bakery? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Well, I noticed that when men were getting ready to get out of prison, they would come up to me, up to the chaplain, and go chat. We don't even want to get out. We're going to get out, you know, if they did their full time, which is called twelve-twelve, as you know. If they did their full time, they would get out like $8.50 and a bus ticket to where the crime was committed, not necessarily home. 


Fleet Maull: 

Wow. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

And the bus would drop them by the curb, and then, you know, they would spend $8.50 at the first McDonald's to get some real food. And then, they were on the street. I am sure they're going to recommit. I would recommit under those circumstances. So, on my way out, you know, and sometimes I regret this, but most of the time, I don't. 


I made a promise that I would start a bakery. I didn't start a bakery, but I would find some business that would hire only ex-offenders. I retired in April of 2015, at the end of April, and by November 2015, we were up. We were at a bakery. We were renting space a couple of days a week. I had written letters to friends asking for donations. We had $2,000 for our night. That was it. We hired two people, two men. We didn't have any equipment. We didn't have any ingredients. We had payroll over our heads. We had rent over our heads. And we didn't have any customers. 


Fleet Maull: 

That was quite a business plan. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

We still don't have a business plan, actually. But in two weeks, I thought, "Well, this is going to be the shortest business in the world." And I picked a bakery because I thought most jobs that people get when they come out of prison is ugly work. It's like refinishing floors, where you're breathing in chemicals, working on a dock, or you're doing something that nobody else wants to do. 


I thought the bakery would be fun, you know, you have to eat your mistakes. So, I was sitting there thinking, "Well, this is going to be it." I got a phone call from this man. I didn't know him. He said, "You don't know me." He said, "I'm the CEO of a company. I heard what you're doing." And he says, "I have 80 employees." And he said, "I'd like to buy a pie for each of them for Thanksgiving." And he says, "I'd like to prepay for the pies. I'm on my way over there right now with a check for you." 



Fleet Maull: 

Oh, my goodness. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

And if it wouldn't have been for him, we would have probably gone under right away. That got us through to January. And then, there was a little Catholic Sisters home in a neighborhood where we were, and they gave us a little grant money, and it got us through to spring, and then we started selling at outdoor markets and getting some bigger grants, etc., etc. We just last year bought our own building. Well, it's not all paid for but. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, I've seen the photos. It's beautiful. And so again, when did you start? What year was that? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

2015. 


Fleet Maull: 

So, it's just been seven years. You're in your seventh year, and now you have your own location. Absolutely wonderful. How many people do you employ? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

It goes up and down as the year goes up and down. I think our highest number has been 12 at a time. Right now, we're at five. We're going into the pie-baking season, so we may step it up. We have more space in this building than we had anywhere else. Kind of a stopping point; how many people can you fit around an oven? 


People stay different lengths of time. We don't have any program in place that says you have to move on in six months. We do it on an individual basis. I have one woman who just got out of prison. She got life without it at the age of 17. She spent 28 years in prison. She just came out last year. She's been with us almost a year, and I think she'll be with us for a couple of years because if you can imagine coming out after never having a job before and facing all of this and hitting it in your face, you need some stability and we all love her at work, and she loves the work. I think she'll be with us for a while. 


Fleet Maull: 

How do your employees and your team members find you? How do you find them? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Well, I always say I have had a reputation in prison. As you know, in Missouri, they move guys a lot from one prison to another because they get $50 every time they move them. The guys in prison like me. They really did, probably because I could have gone to prison if I had gotten caught. The only difference was I didn't get caught. 


So, when I got moved to another prison, they would tell people about me. So people find me when I get out. Now, we're still putting out a little newsletter called Inside Dharma. We've been putting that out for about 12 years, I think. We talked about the bakery there too. It goes all over the United States. 


Fleet Maull: 

People find you by word of mouth. They contact you. And then, what do they do in terms of housing and their other needs? They're getting fresh out of prison or jail, and you hire them? And then, yeah, how do they handle the rest of it? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Well, most of our people have still been on parole. So they're in some kind of housing. If you're on parole, you have to go someplace. But there's a program in St. Louis. It's a great program. It's called CJM (Criminal Justice Ministry). They don't do it for everybody. 


If you can mark/check the boxes, they get you an apartment, which you get, like, three months free, and then they start, you know, $10 a month, $20 a month until they bring you up to the rent. They furnish the apartment. They send people to me. I've had probably three or four people come from them. That's a really good program. They helped me with clothes. 


I can't do living situations. There's just one of me. I concentrate on the employment, but I do put out if somebody does get a place and they need something, I put out a request for beds, clothing, you know, whatever they need. People step up. 


Fleet Maull: 

You have a Zen Center as well in St. Louis, don't you? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

I do, yeah. It's in the bakery. 


Fleet Maull: 

Oh, it's there. Right. So, do your dear students get involved with the bakery for the most part? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Not anymore. At first, they did but not so much anymore. The bakery has gotten a little bit bigger. It requires a little bit more expertise. 


Fleet Maull: 

So, is it just you, and then everyone else is a former prisoner on your staff? Or do you have some other staff? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

No, I have at least three essential volunteers that are incredible. They come in. I don't know what I would do with them. They deliver stuff for me. They shop for me. They're just great. They are just great. And then the rest of the people there are ex-offenders. Yeah. 


Fleet Maull: 

Well, it's an absolutely wonderful ministry that you're doing and so needed. The whole landscape of post-release and transition for returning citizens in our society is pretty bleak. Initially, years ago, most of the halfway houses or transitional programs were religiously founded. Many of them were Christian, many Catholic, and some of them were great. Some of them are not so great. But then it almost all got taken over by a for-profit community corrections industry. 


I went through one of those for-profit programs. It was just terrible. I spent three months in a halfway house, and it was all about control and no support. I was very lucky. I had a really good attitude. I was really trying to stay out of trouble. I did not want to go back to prison. I could have easily gone back just because they had a million rules that were impossible to follow and keep track of, right? Any kind of actual employment. It was kind of a joke. And so, you know, it's pretty bleak out there. And then, you know, there's been many of us in the kind of Prison Dharma, Prison Mindfulness, Prison Yoga world that wanted to, you know, the idea of creating a mindfulness-based or Dharma-based halfway house or, you know, it's always been out there. 


Sita Lozoff, who's on our summit. She and Bo had a bit of a transitional thing going down at the Human Kindness Foundation for a little bit. But there hasn't really been much happening. It takes a lot of resources to do something like that. 


I don't know, in our culture. We have a lot of wonderful values in our American culture. We have a lot of not-so-great things, occurrences in a culture, a lot of shame and blase kinds of punishment. And we're not very good at giving people second chances. In general, right? There's a stigma that people have when they come out of prison or jail. And so, I'm just curious about what you think about that whole kind of reentry post-release landscape and what we need to do to shift that and change that. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

I know at the bakery, I have a rule, a very strict rule, that we never ask what anybody did. We get a lot of media coverage. I put that out there. I said, "When you come in here, we have a rule. You can't ask what a person did. They're trying to get past it." They will just totally ignore the walk-up and stick a microphone in someone's face. "Well, what were you in prison for?" And I'll stop it. I will stop it. I don't care what a person went to prison for. I actually don't care. It's from this day forward, right? 


I've seen people come out of prison, and they are so beaten down. They're so negative about themselves. I've seen them change at the bakery. A woman made her first pie. It was a cherry pie. And she ran around the bakery, screaming, "I made this pie. I made this pie." I could have started crying. Do you know what I mean? 


Fleet Maull: 

Absolutely. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

A couple of times, we've done a little thing where we have a morning meeting, and we'll go around the table, and I want everybody to say something positive about themselves. I had to laugh because one day, this guy goes, "Well, I'm really good-looking." And I said, "Yeah. Well, besides that. Can you tell me something positive about yourself?" It is a hard world. You come out, and people are infected. 


At the last church we were at, we were there for about five years, and, you know, really good connection with the people. But the pastor came to me, and she said, "We decided on our board, we don't want any sex offenders here. So if you have any sex offenders, you need to let them go." And I said, "Well, I don't know if I do or not. And I don't care if I do or not." I said, "This is what's going to cause me to leave the church here and find a place of my own." And she said, "Well, I understand that." 


And I did, you know. I want people to feel good about themselves. I want people to leave all that haunting nightmares behind, you know, and approach the future, you know, approach the future. But it is the hardest thing. I can't even imagine.


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, it's so hard. That's been difficult. Actually, even while I was in, I stayed in touch with people when they got out sometimes and found even some guys who were, you know, really involved with some of the Christian churches, they had really active ministries coming into the prison and wonderful volunteers that came in, really love the guys up and very transformative. And then they'd get out and try to go to those churches, and they weren't, you know, they met a lot of fear. 


It's not just Christian. Same thing in Buddhist organizations. Since I've been out, we've had, in the very states where I've been involved with different communities and so forth, including my own, we've had situations where people got released and started coming to a center, and then somebody heard that they did this crime or that crime, and it suddenly was a big uproar, and people were uncomfortable. Especially around sex offenses. Parents just freak out. That's understandable, but everybody gets painted with one broad brush, right? 


If we can't get people a second chance, are we just going to continue to live in fear? We have this illusion in this country that we can take the people we don't want, or we're scared, and we'll put them behind bars, and it's going to stay there, and that'll just go away, but it doesn't go away. They all come back, and they all get released. It's also a reflection on ourselves, right? Because what are we afraid of? 

What we're most afraid of in others is usually that which we're afraid of in ourselves, I think. Right? So it's a collective process of healing that we all need to be involved in, right? 


So, there's such a distance to go. I don't know if you would have any encouragement or advice for anyone in our audience who would like to get some kind of transitional programming going, whether it's housing or employment, a bakery or something, or whatever it might be. Some way to support them because there are so many people in our movement that really connect with people while they're incarcerated who get very involved in various meditation groups and so yoga groups and so forth, but when they get out, they feel like they have no place to send them, no way to support them. 


A lot of times, the Dharma Centers are out in the suburbs somewhere, and you know, even the release person may not feel entirely comfortable going there even if they're welcome, right? And so, you know, there's so much work that needs to happen. I'm curious about if there's somebody that really feels that need and wants to get involved. Any advice you'd have or guidance? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

I will tell them that when they first start out to work with a group that has done this before. I looked for a community. There are a lot of things in the inner city that are available, people working with ex-offenders that will lend space. There are churches that are open. There are Zen Centers in the inner cities that are open where people could come to meet. And, you know, a lot of like AAA groups or NA groups are open to having people come in, and just to find a place where someone could come to and feel comfortable. 


One of the things I think we have going for us is that when people come to work for us, they have something in common with the people working there. If you can imagine, you know, getting out of prison, what would you talk to a person who's never been in prison? You know, they go, "Hey, have you been to the ball game?" On the last one and spin inside, you know? So it's like, I think our success rate is because of that because people can talk about their problems and their issues. 


We even have a volunteer therapist that comes in that they can go out and complain about me if they want to because it's all private. That's a resource for them. Having a place for people to meet is key. Working with a group that has done this before just to go out on your own and do something, I mean, Thubten Chödron was so helpful to me. But also Robina. Robina came a few times and went to prison with me. I just love the woman, you know. Other people, so many other people, you know, were guidance for doing this. 


This is kind of interesting. One of the people we ended up on our board of directors was George Lombardi, who is a former director of all the prisons in Missouri. And the way we got him interested in this is we named a cookie after him. We call it the Hardy Lombardi. He just loved this. He retired. Yeah, it was a political appointment. So the state went Republic, he got, you know, but he got on our board, and he went around, and he gave talks, and he just passed away this spring. Huge loss for us. But even my former boss, he's on our board of directors. People who've been in prison have a heart for what needs to happen. They understand that this is impossible for guys just to get out or women to get out and, you 

know, and make it on their own. Boy, it's an uphill battle. The more people you could have that are open to it. 


One of my main concerns is we're in a nice neighborhood. It's a nice working-class neighborhood. There are dog walkers everywhere, bicycle people, and open-minded people. I was afraid that people would know, you know, I'm pretty open about what we are and that they would object to this. But instead, I now have the neighborhood group coming in and sticking labels on bags for me, and they're getting Hepatitis A shots so they can actually package food for me. And so, I have a whole group of volunteers from the neighborhood. It is wonderful. 


Fleet Maull: 

No, that is wonderful. Where in St. Louis are you located? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

We're in Tower Grove south. We're near Tower Grove Park.


Fleet Maull: 

Oh, yeah. So you're down in the city? Yeah. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Yeah. We are in the city. Yeah. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah. It's great. Yeah. Yeah, we were chatting before we got started here. I grew up in St. Louis. The rest of my family is still in St. Louis. So, we have that connection. Yeah. Well, next time I get out to visit my family, I'm going to have to come down and see the bakery. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Oh, you better. 


Fleet Maull: 

Absolutely will. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

No one has ever left hungry. 


Fleet Maull: 

Great. I'm sure you make all kinds of stuff that's not on my diet plan, but I'll give myself a pass one day. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Great. Yeah. Yeah. We're kind of more of a commercial bakery. We are supplying stores. We now have a place where people could come in and have a cup of coffee, muffin, or whatever, but we mostly supply stores. 


Fleet Maull: 

I'm curious if you've connected with some of the others, you know. My teacher, Roshi Bernie Glassman, started at Greyston Bakery. It's quite well-known in Yonkers. I'm not sure who I knew, the gentleman that was running out for quite a while. I don't know if he's still there. I wonder if you ever connected with them, or if you connected with Father Boyle out there with Homeboy Industries or any of these folks that are doing very similar things to you. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

No, but there are people who gave me the idea to do a bakery. My background is actually in chemistry. I cannot cook. 


Fleet Maull: 

I thought you were about to say, being a chemist, you knew how to do recipes or something. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Yeah. I mean, it's different from cooking. Cooking needs you to be creative. Baking is like a cup is a cup, you know? Yeah. Basically, chemistry. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah. Well, thank you so much for being part of our summit, Kalen, and for the amazing work that you do. I know how many people have been touched by your love and compassion, and just the way you show up for people and your dedication. So, it's incredibly inspiring to be able to spend some time with you today. Thank you so much for being part of our summit. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Thank you for having me. I'm going to hold you to come in to visit us. 


Fleet Maull: 

I will. I absolutely will. So, in fact, I'll make a promise right now because I'm coming home for Thanksgiving, so if you're going to be around. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

I'll be around. 


Fleet Maull: 

Okay. I'll come down. I'll come down with my wife. We'll come down and visit you. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Fantastic. 


Fleet Maull: 

How can people find out more about your work with the bakery? And even how could they support your work at the bakery? 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

They could go to our website, LaughingBearBakery.org, all one word, lowercase, LaughingBearBakery.org. It tells you it has pictures of the bakery, some of our employees' information, products, or history, and how we got the name Laughing Bear Bakery. 


Fleet Maull: 

I was just about to ask you that. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

I'll try to do it quickly here. A friend of mine was Native American. She did all our paperwork getting us Incorporated. She passed away with breast cancer. I wanted to honor her and name the bakery after her, but her name was Victoria. We just couldn't have a Victoria's Bakery because people would have thought of underwear or something like that. Her totem was a bear, you know, a Native American culture. Her totem was a bear, and she laughed a lot. Hence, Laughing Bear Bakery. There's a picture of her on our website. 


Fleet Maull: 

Oh, that's wonderful. It's wonderful honoring her in that way. I can't wait to visit the bakery. It's really an honor connecting with you today. And again, thank you for being part of this summit. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. 


Fleet Maull: 

Great. I really encourage people to go check it out. LaughingBearBakery.org. Thank you. Be well. 


Rev. Kalen McAllister: 

Thank you. 





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