December 11, 2013 // Franchising.com // Old Saybrook, Conn. – Donna McNeill, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Old Saybrook, Ct. was introduced to a unique idea through one of her local customers, Raymond Bechard, an author, journalist, and television producer whose latest project is a television series titled "Honor Bound." McNeill’s bakery sends packages full of fresh bread on expedited journeys to Afghanistan to provide soldiers with a taste of home. She sent several packages earlier this year, and she is sending another round of her whole grain, freshly baked products to Afghanistan during the holidays.
The bakery sends all kinds of baked goods to Afghanistan including its legendary Honey Whole Wheat, Farmhouse White, and Cinnamon Chip.
"Great Harvest is all about making the best tasting products from scratch everyday in a fun loving atmosphere," says McNeill. "Fresh baked bread is something everyone enjoys, and we think this is the least that we can do for the brave men and women supporting our country abroad. We hope that this small token of our appreciation shows them that we care about them and hope for their swift and safe return."
McNeill says she received an email from a service member in Afghanistan asking if she could send another box of her delicious homemade goodies in time for the holidays. He had heard of Great Harvest’s offer to send bread to another unit.
"We were so excited to receive his email and jumped on the chance," says McNeill. "This small gesture is just our thank you to them for their service. If we can make their holidays special in any way, we want to do it. Hopefully, this will give them a taste of home until they can return home to their families. We hope that is very soon."
McNeill packed a box full of her favorite holiday loaves including Cinnamon Chip, Chocolate Babka, Eggnog, and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip and quickly mailed it overseas. She is also inviting customers to write or design holiday cards and letters that she can include in her next shipment before the holidays. McNeill plans to make additional shipments in the future.
Great Harvest, a freedom franchise whole grain bakery business with more than 200 bakeries across the country, grinds premium Montana wheat berries into whole-wheat flour daily and blends it with pure-and-simple ingredients such as honey, purified water, herbs and more to ensure products taste rich and retain important nutrients.
Bechard credits McNeill’s Great Harvest bakery as the inspiration to begin the bread deliveries.
"Honestly, it was the bread," he notes. "Donna was working on perfecting her recipe for Cinnamon Swirl bread and I tried a sample. I was leaving for Afghanistan the next day so I bought two loaves, froze them and packed them in my luggage along with all my video and recording equipment. The soldiers there have helped our project so much. I didn't want to show up empty handed and the bread was the perfect way to show our appreciation."
After Bechard’s first trip, he sent two coffeemakers to the soldiers because their equipment had broken. In the same shipment, he included as many frozen Great Harvest loaves as would fit in the box; they arrived fresh and ready to enjoy. The soldiers had butter in a refrigerator, and they devoured the bread commenting that it "reminded them of home."
"Having this wonderful bread allowed them to visit home for just a few minutes," says Bechard. "And sometimes that's enough to get them through the day. Wouldn’t it be great if other businesses could follow suit…especially if they know a soldier who really enjoys a taste of their local community. It’s great to pay it forward like this."
McNeill says tasting is believing, and encourages locals and visitors to stop in anytime for a free slice of breads and sweets hot-out-of-the oven. "Our bakery is rooted in generosity and we thoroughly enjoy sharing our daily creations. Working together with my dad to get the bakery up and running has been a precious experience; truly a family labor of love."
Great Harvest bakeries across the country participate in similar activities to support local charities, organizations, and nonprofits including Baker for the Day events in which local groups actually work in the store milling the wheat, baking bread, and selling it. Bakeries offer all of the profits from the day to the charity. At the end of each business day, Great Harvest stores donate leftover bread and sweets to homeless shelters and neighborhood food banks.
"Great Harvest owners live and breathe their community every day," says CEO Mike Ferretti. "The freedom franchise model is unique in that each bakery can choose to interact with their local community in their own way. Our owners really believe in supporting local causes, and Donna has taken that to the next level by reaching overseas through her customer's organization."
Originally founded in 1976 in Great Falls, Mont., Great Harvest has more than 200 bakeries located throughout the nation including Alaska and Hawaii. All bakeries are locally owned and operated, and no two are alike thanks to the unique freedom franchise agreement that gives owners more flexibility to run their business according to their local neighborhood’s interests.
Great Harvest is known for handcrafted breads made with freshly ground whole wheat purchased from family-owned farms. The neighborhood bakeries create an array of legendary fresh baked breads and sweets, as well as specialty items during the holidays. Great Harvest mills its whole wheat daily. The fresh flour is used within two days to guarantee the best taste and nutritional value.
The Old Saybrook Great Harvest bakery is located at 535 Boston Post Rd. and is open between 7 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit their website at www.OldSaybrook.GreatHarvestBread.com. For more information on Great Harvest Bread Co., please visit www.GreatHarvest.com, and for more details on Honor BoundTV, please visit www.HonorBound.tv.
SOURCE Great Harvest
Great Harvest Bread Co.