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Branches Bake House finds success in helping others

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Chocolate covered strawberries made by the Branches Bake House.
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Vegan chocolate chip muffins made by Branches Bake House.
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Libby and Tim Root working for Branches Bake House at a saturday morning market.
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Photo/Susan Knapp

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

Branches Bake House finds many ways to nourish the Grant County community.

The Gas City-based nonprofit sells baked goods at farm markets and caters events to raise funding for mission trips and local causes. 

“We’re all born and raised in Grant County,” said Susan Knapp, who helps run the bake house, of everyone who volunteers. “We went to Mississinewa High School and we want to support our community with baked goods.”

The goal of Branches Bake House is to nourish the community not only with its baked goods, but by helping financially and donating personal time. Most recently, three bake house volunteers gave time at the Fly/In Cruise/In pancake fundraiser.

Knapp said volunteers want to contribute, “whether that’s spiritually, mentally, physically or through the stomach.”

Everything the bake house makes is homemade, according to Knapp, and Branches also makes baked goods that are both gluten- and sugar-free. 

The bakery is only two years old and resulted from the merger of two volunteer groups: Lillies of the Field and Women on a Mission. The groups went to local farmers’ markets to sell bread, pies, cakes, muffins and cinnamon rolls. Since the charity work was so similar, the two organizations decided to merge to form Branches Bake House to raise money for missions, local donations and state organizations. 

Knapp said several volunteers use some of the money for international missions trips, sending members across the globe to Papua New Guinea, Haiti and Peru, but the country visited most frequently is Honduras.

Bake house volunteers Tim and Libby Root have now traveled to Honduras together four times. The couple goes back as often as possible to see how children are doing and to see that they are making an impact in those children’s lives, affording them the ability food, shelter and a place to sleep.

“It is a really good opportunity for my husband, mom and I to kinda bond and to give back in a different way than we would normally,” said Libby Root. “(Honduras) is where our heart is.”

Knapp said in the past two years the nonprofit has been drawing in more and more customers. Now Branches Bake House is getting ready to enter apple dumpling season, which is one of its most popular treats.

“I have had their pie and spoke with them only a couple times, but they are nice and the pie was awesome,” said Teri Jones, a fan of the bake house. “I think it’s important to support local business.” 

Although the group is selling more baked goods than ever, they currently do not have a storefront. Knapp said they once had a brick-and-morter store to sell from, but the building did not pass the fire marshall’s inspection.

“Each time we have a business meeting we try to talk about what our mission is, what our goals are with the lord leading us [and] what he really wants from us,” Knapp said. “At this point it seems to still be private stuff.”

The organization does however have a commercial in the old James Dean Event Center that is inspected by the county health department. 

Knapp enjoys the relationships her and her volunteers are able to build with people through their non-profit, and said it is all about relating to people through conversation and learning from them.

“Then we have repeat customers and we know their family, we know what’s happening in their lives they know what’s happening with us,” Knapp said. “We’re nourishing through baked goods, but we’re also nourishing through relationships and foundations that way.”  

Much of the non-profit’s success comes from the community nourishing it by getting behind the organization and supporting it.

“We just really appreciate that and we appreciate the opportunity that Branches has given us for that,” Knapp said.