Panera Bread Orlando raises awareness for National Foster Care Month and raises money for the Foundation for Foster Children.
At 5 a.m. on Thursday, May 7, 2010, bakers at the 14 Orlando-area Panera Bread locations were busy baking hundreds of blueberry bagels in the shape of blue ribbons.
When they opened for business at 6:30 a.m., customers began buying the Blue Ribbon bagels, with all proceeds donated to The Foundation for Foster Children in honor of National Foster Care month. Family Services of Metro Orlando is a proud partner of the foundation, which serves 1,500 foster children in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties each year.
By 9:00 a.m., all fourteen locations had sold out of the special bagels, much to the surprise and joy of local child welfare agencies.
“This is the kind of response from the community that we were hoping for,” said Gregory Kurth, CEO of Family Services of Metro Orlando. “Our foster youth need to know that they aren’t alone – we support them, Panera supports them and the rest of our community supports them as well.”
Greg Kurth was joined by Michelle Carlton, President of the Foundation for Foster Children, and John Cooper, Central Regional Director of the Department of Children and Families, for a Blue Ribbon bagel breakfast in Winter Park.
Panera Bread Orlando has developed a reputation for supporting foster children in Central Florida based largely on employment practices. In the past year, local Paneras have provided jobs to approximately 30 foster teens.
For youth like 17-year-old Bryttany, who entered foster care at a young age, that employment opportunity can be a symbol of something greater – hope.
After cycling through several foster homes, in 2007 she was placed with a foster mother to whom she has become deeply connected. With this newly developed confidence, Bryttany attended an Independent Living get-together last year, just one day after her sixteenth birthday. There she seized the opportunity to fill out a Panera Bread job application that was offered to her. One interview and several weeks later found her jumping up and down with joy in her living room after being offered the job.
“I’ve been working at Panera for about a year now,” said Bryttany, as a huge smile lit up her face. “And at work, we’re like a family. Everyone has each other’s backs.”
Last November, Family Services of Metro Orlando recognized the advocacy of Panera Bread Orlando on behalf of children and families with the first annual Corporate Champion for Children Award.