Feeding people can be a gift, in more ways than one. Sometimes a meal can be a respite from an uncertain world. That is exactly what is happening at Blue Line Donuts in Flint, which is offering a bit of a hand up, one delicious doughnut at a time.
We visited Blue Line during our search for Michigan’s Best Doughnut, and came away impressed not just with the doughnuts, but with the program behind them.
Located within Carriage Town Ministries, Blue Line Donuts is just one arm of the ministry that they provide here. A shelter with beds for about 100 for those experiencing homelessness, Carriage Town is also a place to worship, to get a welcome free meal, a health clinic, as well as a place to develop new skills, including how to be a baker. The organization offers services not just to their residents, but to the entire Flint community.
“The heart of Blue Line Donuts was an idea not just to make great doughnuts,” said Nic Gatlin, director of operations and human resources at Carriage Town Ministries. “When the guys know they had a hand in it, it really boosts them. They take a lot of pride in it.”
They’ve been making doughnuts for about four years now, and what started off as more of a chore for some of the residents has really turned into serious job training for some. During our visit, we met current baker Bruce Sowles, who was described as a bit of a “tornado” in the kitchen, and who was an advocate for what they have going on here.
Sowles used to own a bakery, Gatlin told us, but lost it after falling on some hard times. After becoming a resident at Carriage Town, they tapped him to begin baking, and he hasn’t looked back since. His confidence boost, not just in the kitchen, but with life in general, has all come about because of the doughnuts, and the trust that Carriage Town has put in him to consistently produce the products they can count on. He is now an official employee here.
“It really helps with their self esteem,” said Nik Schillman, who runs the retail aspect of the project, and is also the food director. “When they know they had a hand in it, it really boosts them. They take a lot of pride in it.”
Blue Line Donuts sells their hand-made doughnuts at Carriage Town two days a week, on Wednesday and Friday mornings. They also sell their doughnuts, muffins and bagels daily at Foster Coffee Company located in downtown Flint.
While the project is small right now, with only one or two bakers training at a time, they have big plans for expansion in the next few years. The kitchen offers free meals to anyone in need and typically serves 150 guests daily, on site pre-COVID-19, and in the to-go format currently. They also deliver meals to seniors in the community. The kitchen will be undergoing a remodel this winter.
The big news for doughnut lovers is that Carriage Town has purchased a former service station across the street, and is now in the midst of a capital campaign to raise the needed funds to rehab it, and create a unique downtown destination serving doughnuts and as community gathering place, for all of Flint. You can check out renderings of the plans for the new Carriage Town Bakery in the photo gallery above. The building will undergo three phases of work: one to make the building weathertight and serviceable, the second to complete the kitchen and inside, and the third to “learn, earn, and grow partners.”
Blue Line Donuts takes it name from the Flint bus line that runs right in front of its location. It’s also a nod to their friends in the first responder community, whom they work hard with to build great relationships, since they work together frequently with them and the residents. Carriage Town Ministries is a non-denominational organization that exists on grants and private donations to do its work.
The doughnuts here are classic, but with the baker’s personality shining through. Sour Cream Cake is nice and crunchy on the outside, while the Raspberry Bismarck oozed fruity jam. The raised, coconut topped one was light and fluffy, with a bit of chew from the shredded coconut. The cinnamon twist is traditional, with a nice level of spice, and perfect for dipping in a cup of Foster’s Coffee that they also serve here. We loved the super cute Frankenstein decorated doughnut, which Sowles was pretty happy with. He’s also proud that he’s learning new skills here, like how bake a solid muffin and the best way to cook a bagel.
“It’s challenging,” Sowles explained about baking here. “And I take great pride in that.”
The organization is offering a special online event that you can attend today, Thursday Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. This virtual experience is a way to learn more about Carriage House Ministries’ history, and to see where they are going in the future.
If you are interested in attending this event, you can register for it here.
Blue Line Donuts at Carriage Town Ministries
605 Garland St.
Flint, MI 48430
Doughnuts are available on Wednesdays and Friday from 7 am to noon at Carriage Town Ministries.
Free coffee and doughnuts are served to any first responder, so come on by.
You can also find Blue Line doughnuts, muffins and bagels at:
Foster Coffee Company
615 S Saginaw St.
Flint, MI 48502
Special thanks to Michigan’s Best Doughnut search sponsor, the Michigan Sugar Company, makers of Pioneer Sugar.
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Source: Thanks https://www.mlive.com/michigansbest/2020/10/this-flint-bakery-is-offering-hope-by-the-sweet-dozen.html