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Bakery's direct giving program aims to help neighbors in need

Durham Neighbors was founded out of the Ninth Street Bakery in Durham, N.C., as a way for the bakery to give back to the community. Every month, 100 local families in need get a micro-donation of $50 from Durham Neighbors.
The program started with Ninth Street Bakery giving out free box lunches to those in need at the start of the pandemic. It then created "Durham Neighbors," a micro-giving program that gives out $50 a month to families in need.
Ninth Street Bakery finances the bulk of the $50 payments from Durham Neighbors, though they do accept donations
Posted at 10:26 AM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 12:26:49-05

DURHAM, N.C. — Every morning, the sights, sounds and smells, make the Ninth Street Bakery come to life.

“The bakery's been in business since 1981,” said Ari Berenbaum, who owns the bakery in downtown Durham, North Carolina. “I took it over in 2013, and since that time we've had various social mission projects.”

It started with the bakery giving out free box lunches to those in need at the start of the pandemic.

“A lot of low income and homeless folks are coming in for them,” Berenbaum recalled thinking, “but I feel like we could do something more.”

That’s when Durham Neighbors began to rise. Berenbaum started it as a way for the bakery to give back to the community.

Every month, 100 local families in need get a micro-donation of $50 from Durham Neighbors.

“For many of our members, $50 is a light bill, a water bill, a phone bill, a grocery run,” Berenbaum said.

A recent Giving Tuesday survey published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the concept of "direct giving" is a growing trend favored by younger people. They asked more than 5,000 Americans whether they prefer direct giving versus donating to nonprofit charities. The survey found 76% of 18-to-34-year-olds prefer direct giving, compared to 46% of people over the age of 50.

Leigh Ann Shore applied for the Durham Neighbors program. She said things have been tough during the pandemic.

“It was hard,” she said. “It was really hard.”

Shore said while $50 may not sound like a lot, it’s helping her make ends meet with what she earns working as a store cashier.

“They sent it to me every month,” she said. “They never miss a month and it really does help me.”

It helps her because it’s not just her she worries about.

“My daughter, she's my world. And some months, we would go without things and I’m about to cry,” she said, getting emotional before resuming. “And I would get that $50 and I'll be like, ‘Okay, we're good. We're good.’”

Natasha Adams recently gave birth after a high-risk pregnancy.

“It might not seem like a lot of money, but it comes right on time,” Adams said. “The $50 came. I didn't have Pampers. I didn't have wipes. So, it just came just in time and I’m the type of person, I really just sometimes don't like to ask – but if you have to, you know – so that came just in time.”

The bakery finances the bulk of the $50 payments, though they do accept donations. Ari Berenbaum said it’s more than just about $50.

“Every month we do check-ins,” he said. “We actually have ambassadors that we use for some people that need a little bit more attention or need to get connected to social services.”

It’s a way Durham Neighbors and Ninth Street Bakery are giving neighbors something to sink their teeth into.