Just months ago, Mandy Roberson was living in a holding cell, facing drug charges. She had nothing but time on her hands. She remembers days when she would start and finish multiple books. Bonded by their mutual experience, Mandy and her cellmate cheered themselves with hopes for the future. They dreamed of opening a bakery once they were clean. It would have soft couches for lounging and a sign that said “Loitering Allowed.” It was their contingency plan, their motivation, their self-awarded reward for staying sober. Mandy would stay up all night, scribbling down recipes in the books she had finished.
Mandy doesn’t stay up all night anymore. The Talbot House Bakery opens at 7:30 a.m., and she is the head baker. Her day begins even earlier, as she prepares the dough for the bakery’s rolls. Mandy’s hopes for the future have come to fruition by her own perseverance and some help from the Talbot House.
The Talbot House is a transitional home for women graduating from rehabilitation programs. It’s a safe place for those who find themselves without a place to go that will be conducive to their recovery. Mandy was one of those women.
“When I got home from rehab, I panicked,” Mandy said. “I had no car, no job, no friends. I didn’t know anyone who was clean.”
She called Becky Weatherford, the founder and director of the Talbot House.
“Becky said, ‘Just breathe. I’ll be in that area later, and I’ll just come and get you,’” Mandy said.
As she settled into her new life in sober living, Mandy overheard talk of the Talbot House Bakery, a creative way for the home generate much-needed funds. Baking had been a former business venture of Becky’s. It seemed like a coincidence, but neither Mandy nor Becky believe in coincidences.
When their search for a head baker left them empty-handed, Mandy threw her name in the hat.
“I kept telling her I could bake. I had a lot of older women in my life who taught me how to cook and bake,” Mandy said. “I got pregnant at 16, so I had to learn at a young age so that I could feed everyone.”
Becky heard her, but she waited. She wanted to see how serious Mandy was. One day, she handed her the cinnamon roll recipe and told her to give it a shot. The rolls were a success. After that day, Mandy began practicing each day, until her baked goods got rave reviews from her housemates and earned her the title of head baker.
“Becky did for me what no one else would do,” Mandy said. “I couldn’t even get someone to give me a ride to apply for a job.”
Helping women raise themselves out of bad situations is a gift of Becky’s, though she takes little credit.
The Talbot House manager, Heather, is another success story. She had lived at the home briefly after leaving rehab. She had been out on her own and doing well for a while when she came to visit Becky with bad news. Heather had been fired from her job after being out for a week with the flu.
“I had been sitting on the end of my bed that morning telling God that I needed help, that I needed some sort of assistant or someone to help me at the house,” Becky said. “I offered her the job on the spot.”
Heather now coordinates the residents’ schedules, drop-offs, pick-ups and daily life. Becky is grooming her to be the live-in manager.
“I can’t imagine where I’d be or what I’d be doing. I had nowhere to go. I was hopeless,” Heather said. “Then, I came here and there’s someone with so much hope that it gives you some, too.”
Heather’s goal now is to be for others what Becky was for her.
“Some people won’t care, but for that one person, it will change their life. And that’s what it’s all about,” she said.
The Talbot House is an actual house, complete with an eat-in kitchen, shared bedrooms and a backyard garden. It’s tucked away on a quiet road in Belden. At any given time, it is home to 6 to 8 women in recovery. Residents stay for 90 days on average.
Becky modeled the warm environment after the home she and her three kids moved into after her rehabilitation—her parents’.
“It was a healthy environment, a positive environment. It was welcoming, warm and encouraging,” she said.
Seven years later, she saw a need at the treatment center she worked in. Becky constantly had patients telling her that they had nowhere to go or that it was not healthy for them to go home. At the time, there were several sober living environments in the area for men and none for women.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Becky said. “It was divinely inspired.”
Things started happening. Becky got connected with a man who shared her interest in creating a safe place for women in recovery. His help was instrumental in the founding of the Talbot House, but he likes to remain anonymous.
“Everything that has happened has been an adventure and a learning experience. We are still learning, specifically about how to get the word out about what we do,” Becky said.
For her, it’s about more than funding; it’s about community acceptance and acknowledgement that addiction is a disease, not a moral issue. The Talbot House’s—and Becky’s—mission is to provide women opportunities to make better choices.
Funding is important, though, as the house charges residents as little as possible to make sure their services are accessible. Enter Talbot House Bakery.
Becky, Mandy and a rotating crew of residents runs the bakery throughout the week, fulfilling catering orders and selling individual rolls and pans of rolls at their bakery behind LifeCore. The roll flavors are cinnamon, blueberry lemon and sausage cream cheese. All proceeds go to supporting the work of Becky and company.
Behind the bakery’s green door, music plays as Mandy and her assistant for the day bake and package rolls. As she hums, she thinks of the potential her new life holds. She thinks of her cellmate, who is no longer in recovery. She hopes that she will join her at the bakery someday when the time is right.
“One thing I have learned from Becky is that we all have to make it on our own or it’s not genuine. And if it’s not genuine, it won’t stick,” Mandy said.