For the past few weeks on Sunday mornings, the Wilson house has been filled with soft chatter, buzzing laptops and a sweet aroma lingering in the air. Inside the kitchen, it smells even better, as fresh loaves of bread bake in the oven. A bit of the bread will be eaten before it even has time to cool. Other loaves are taken to the chefs’ friends or professors. Most of the loaves, however, are donated to Safe Harbor, a facility in Galesburg for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.
Baked Benevolence, a new organization led by Knox students, formed at the beginning of this term. They invite all students to spend their Sunday baking bread with them to share with their community. While baking the bread, which usually takes around five hours, the students talk to one another and do their homework.
“It’s really created a beautiful group of people coming together who don’t usually socialize,” said a member of the group who wishes to remain unidentified in order to promote a sense of community and sharing of leadership. “It creates an incredibly peaceful atmosphere. People, at the end, are a little more beautiful.”
In January, the group began their project to bake bread based on The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown, a Zen priest and chef. The book described making bread as a peaceful and giving experience and how people could reach out to others through making their bread. The group decided to formalize their presence on campus and recently became a club where they use their budget to purchase supplies for the bread.
“There is an incredible possibility of Knox students to do something like this. The resources are there, the money is there,” said the same member. “I feel like it has a lot of potential.”
It was not hard for this group to gather the resources it needed to make the bread. In addition to the funds from the school, several businesses and individuals have donated money and supplies to the effort. Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer was also consulted about safety standards while baking the bread because the loaves have to bake at a high temperature to ensure that the end product is sanitary.
Several students have also donated their time to bake bread. For many of them, it was the first time they had ever done so.
“You get to learn to make [bread] from scratch which I don’t get to learn at home,” said senior Krystle Liggins, who has spent several Sundays baking bread. “There’s something very giving about creating something with your hands.”
According to Brown, the process of making bread requires a certain amount of energy and appreciation from the baker and can be a very peaceful experience. Food is necessary for people to live and giving it as a gift is something Liggins particularly appreciates about Baked Benevolence.
“When you are making bread you put your heart and soul into it,” said Liggins. “I think that’s beautiful.”
For some students, baking bread and donating it to Safe Harbor provides them with an activity that gives back to their community. There is poverty in Galesburg and, instead of just thinking about the problem, baking this bread is actually doing something about that.
“It’s the most productive thing I’ve done on a Sunday,” said senior Brittany Leggans. “Through your actions, you are not just making bread, you are creating something else.”
Leggans described baking bread for her as an act of self-creation and a way to raise her sense of social consciousness. The group’s mission, along with Brown’s, states that, “to bake bread is to bake oneself.”
The amount of bread made from week to week depends on how many people show up to bake. One Sunday they made 32 loaves. On another they made 28. As the group continues to grow, they hope to make enough loaves to donate to other places around Galesburg in need of fresh bread.
“It’s just fun and it tastes good and smells good,” said Liggins. “I think there is a beautiful community created between us.”