By Melissa Arnold
Drug addiction can rob a person of everything they once held dear. Relationships with loved ones, a safe place to live and the ability to work can all become jeopardized or lost.
When you have nothing left, finding stability and sobriety can seem like an impossible task. But support and education can make all the difference.
For more than 40 years, Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson has offered a wide variety of services to those struggling with addiction or other hardships, from free counseling and support groups to residential programs and spiritual guidance.
Tucked on the quiet grounds of Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai is a modest bakery called Brother’s Bread, which provides sweet and savory treats to visitors and job skills for hard-working men in recovery.
The Little Portion Friary campus, now called Hope Academy, was purchased by Hope House in 2016 when the Franciscan brothers who lived there fell on hard times. Since then, the size of the program has doubled, and more than 60 young men live in the family-style residential facility.
The acquisition was a full-circle moment for Hope House.
“The brothers helped out in local churches but also did a lot of baking. At the beginning of each weekend, people would be able to come in and see what was there and make a donation,” explained Father Francis Pizzarelli, director of Hope House Ministries, “When we acquired the friary, we wanted to maintain the bakery, and maintain that same spirit to honor and celebrate the brothers.”
But with the brothers gone, who would run the bakery? Pizzarelli saw it as an opportunity for the young men in addiction recovery at Hope Academy.
With support and donations from the community, Brother’s Bread received a modern makeover, including new ovens. While Pizzarelli oversees the administrative side of things, daily operations are a work of “shared responsibility” for a small group of Hope Academy residents.
“It’s a source of income [for the Academy], but it’s also therapeutic. It gives these men a new set of skills, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of giving back,” said Pizzarelli, who is also a social worker and addiction counselor. “I’m committed to the holistic approach of mind, body and spirit for recovery and the bakery feeds into that ideal nicely.”
Some of the residents arrive at Hope Academy with previous cooking or baking knowledge, but there are also opportunities for those who want to learn. Current bakers are always looking to share their skills with other residents, especially as the ultimate goal is graduation from the program. A few local retired bakers volunteer their time to teach as well.
The result is the tempting aroma of fresh bread heavy in the air each weekend. While the bakery is best known for their breads, especially cinnamon raisin and whole wheat, with time the menu has expanded to include other goodies. Brownies, scones, cookies and fruit pies are often available, along with seasonal favorites like Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day and cheese pizzas during Lent.
The Irish soda bread in particular has been the source of a lot of laughter at the bakery and among those who attend weekend Mass at the friary.
Pizzarelli explained that one of the current bakers is from Ireland and was eager to share a bite of home with bakery patrons. People rave over it – well, most people. Pizzarelli has never been fond of Irish soda bread and is regularly teased for it.
Another unique facet of Brother’s Bread is the focus on generosity. The bakery door is always open on the weekends, even if no one is there. Each item has a suggested price, and visitors are encouraged to pay what they can.
“We certainly appreciate all the support we get, and the profits help cover the cost of ingredients and food for the residential program,” Pizzarelli said. “But we also know that there are hungry people out there, so we run on the honor system.”
As with all of Hope House’s programs, the bakery depends on the kindness of others. Financial gifts, volunteer support or donations of ingredients are always welcome.
Pizzarelli never imagined 40 years ago that his ministry would unfold as it has, and while there are many difficulties, he continues to offer a place of welcome to as many as he can. “The friary and Hope Academy have been a source of strength for people that are carrying shame and stigma. People focus on the negative stories, and I am always reminded of the people that we’ve lost, but I also see miracles every day,” he said.
Brother’s Bread and Hope Academy at Little Portion Friary are located at 48 Old Post Road, Mount Sinai. The bakery is open 24 hours a day or until sellout. For more information, call 631-473-0553 or visit www.hhm.org.