Goodwill Opens Great Cookies Bakery - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Goodwill Opens Great Cookies Bakery

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It's a "sweet" way to support veterans. A local non-profit is offering unique employment to homeless and disadvantaged vets.

Goodwill of the Heartland officially opened its Great Cookie Bakery in Bettendorf on Friday. All of the employees are veterans in need.

There are a lot of homeless veterans in our community, although it is difficult to know exact numbers because, among other reasons, homeless veterans are only counted when they seek services.

But if it's any indication, the VA Homeless Veterans Outreach Center in Rock Island has served1,642 homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless since May of this year alone.

And, Goodwill of the Heartland serves about 175 local veterans each year with its Homeless Veterans Reintigration Program. Those veterans get help finding full-time employment and learning job readiness skills while working in Goodwill stores in the area.

Now, three of those veterans are working in Goodwill's new bakery.

"It's just getting a fresh start," said one of the bakery's new employees, Mark Eldert, who served in the Air Force for four years.

Eldert and two other local veterans are getting that fresh start thanks to fresh baked cookies.

"These are veterans that need a hand up for one reason or another," said Ken Rizer, Senior Vice President for Operations at Goodwill of the Heartland.

These veterans are the men who are baking, packaging, and delivering the treats to Goodwill's retails stores, out of the new Goodwill Great Cookie Bakery, which is now up and running on Cumberland Square Drive in Bettendorf.

"They are delicious and they're gluten free, you'll never have a better monster cookie in your life," Rizer said.

And they've got a sales pitch it's easy to say yes to:

"The theme behind the cookies is 'Eat a cookie, change a life,"" Rizer explained.

The more cookies sold, the more employees Goodwill can hire to work here.

Marine Corps veteran-turned-cookie-baker Charles Logan says the opportunity he's received here has already been paying off.

"A lot of people when they're unemployed, they sit around a lot and it's really hard on you, so having something to do on a day to day basis makes it feels like you accomplished something," he said.

"It's been really good for me," he added.

It's a mission that hits very close to home for Rizer, a retired Air Force colonel himself:

"I feel a great deal of gratitude for being able - for goodwill to give back to veterans like we are," he said.

These veterans who are now working at the bakery, and community leaders, say its a win-win for everyone involved:

"The program helps support the community and we're part of it," said Robert Moore, a Navy veteran who is baking and packaging the cookies at the bakery.

"It embodies who we are as a Quad Cities," said Paul Rumler, Executive Vice President for the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce

"We're all about job growth, economic well being, workforce development, and supporting our veterans," he said.

Employees will only be baking the cookies at the new facility in Bettendorf. No baked goods are for sale at that site.

If you'd like to buy cookies, you can pick them up at any Goodwill retail store in the area.

The group hopes to expand sales to area grocery stores and to all Goodwills in the country down the road.

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