FEATURE FRIDAY: Growing granola business teaches skills to women in recovery

Blue Monarch, a residential and therapeutic recovery center for women and their children located in rural Coffee County, has as its mission “to provide a long term, residential and therapeutic Christian community to break adverse cycles and rebuild their families.”

According to Kate Cataldo, operations and development director, the center assists families who are dealing with addiction, domestic violence and economic hardship transform in mind, body and spirit.

“We provide a nurturing and therapeutic environment for individuals and families to achieve sobriety, enhance mother and child relationships, and build better life skills while promoting spiritual growth,” Cataldo said. “We believe destructive cycles can be broken and want to serve women who have the desire and commitment to change.”

A large part of the residents’ economic hardship transformation is the production, distribution and sale of Out of the Blue Granola. The granola business was originally privately owned by Blue Monarch founder Susan Binkley, according to Cataldo. She used the granola business to provide jobs for the women through her former restaurant in Sewanee. In 2015, the ownership of the granola business shifted to Blue Monarch in order to more closely align it with the organization’s work ethics training program and to use the product as a fundraising marketing piece for Blue Monarch.

The granola is hand-baked by women recovering from abuse and addition, Cataldo said.

“Our granola offers the women we serve hands-on job training, work history and references. Not only is it granola with a purpose, it is delicious, too. We have spent years perfecting our baking process. Out of the Blue Granola is hand-turned six different times throughout the baking process and every bag comes with a picture of a women who baked it with her special story of recovery on the back.”

One recent graduate, Tasha, spent six years on disability. Now, she is employed by Out of the Blue Granola and providing for her family.

“After a terrible car accident, I was told that I would never be able to work again,” Tasha said. “That left me feeling hopeless. I thought that my situation would never change until Out of the Blue Granola gave me a chance. I am currently employed as the kitchen supervisor and I love my job. More importantly, I am grateful that I am able to provide for myself and my two children.”

Every resident has an opportunity to intern in the granola business, and then earn a paid position.

“We typically have 5-7 women working in the kitchen at any given time, but this opportunity comes later in the program after other recovery work has been completed. All of the proceeds from the granola sales go to support women in recovery and their children. Our granola is all natural and we use local Tennessee wildflower honey.”

By providing jobs in the center’s granola business, residents learn marketable skills, Cataldo said. “They are in charge of new customer initiative and maintaining Out of the Blue Granola’s customer base, so they are becoming very skilled in customer service. They conduct in-store demos and get valuable experience talking to customers and promoting the granola. All of these skills, plus an intense work ethics course with Binkley, develop employees with integrity and create positive references for their future employment.”

Locally, Out of the Blue granola can be purchased at Harvest Local on the square in Manchester; at Tullahoma Drug Store; at Lapp’s Greenhouse in Cowan; at Piggly Wiggly, The Blue Chair and Mooney’s in Sewanee; at Produce Place and the Turnip Truck in Nashville, and at all Tennessee Whole Foods locations. Online orders may be placed at http://www.outofthebluegranola.com/shop.

The Blue Monarch is currently home to 19 families. A new residential home that will house eight additional families is currently under construction. Binkley serves as founder and president. Deanna Barnes is the Blue Monarch products supervisor. Learn more www.bluemonarch.org.