June 8-14, 2006
Her work is done
Bonnie Littlefield inspects loaves of bread at the Glory Bee bakery
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Luke Eggleston
Baker retires from Jail Ministry project after 26 years
“It’s the people I’ve met,” Bonnie Littlefield said, reflecting on the years that she has managed Glory Bee. During her 26 years at the bakery operation, part of Syracuse-based Jail Ministry’s community outreach, helpers from as far away as Panama, Japan, Siberia, the Ukraine, Nicaragua, South Korea and El Salvador have kneaded dough or sorted loaves or helped make deliveries to the various churches that purchase bread from Glory Bee. “It’s hard work, but it’s sure broadened my horizons,” Littlefield said. “I love it. I’ve gotten more out of working here than I’ve put in all these years,” Littlefield said.
Littlefield has never had to make a special effort to encourage volunteers. She relies on the network established by Jail Ministry and the people in the neighborhood on the near northeast side in Syracuse. “They just come,” said Littlefield, who has worked for Glory Bee once a week from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The individuals drawn to the bakery supplement a core of volunteers from Littlefield’s family. Throughout her years at Glory Bee, brothers, sons, daughters, granddaughters and grandsons have helped Littlefield and her husband at the little bakery operation in the basement of St. Vincent de Paul School.
Friday, May 26, was Littlefield’s last day at Glory Bee. Her husband, Skip Littlefield, and a granddaughter, Jenn Wadsworth, joined her. Later on, more children and grandchildren trickled into the basement area and set about their tasks with apparent familiarity.
Wadsworth has been helping out at the kitchen since she was five years old. “I love it. It’s a great atmosphere and you meet a lot of people,” said Wadsworth, who recently graduated from Oswego State.
Later in the morning, Littlefield’s daughter, Laurie Giamartino, arrived with her children. Giamartino has been helping at Glory Bee for roughly 25 years. She said that she and her children relish the mornings they are able to spend with her parents making bread. “I’ll miss it. They [the family members] all will. It won’t be the same without her,” Giamartino said, noting that once Littlefield has left the bakery, her family will likely retire as well. “She’s fun and she’s got a great sense of humor. She and my Dad banter back and forth and it’s hysterical.”
When he was working as a welder for Onondaga County, Skip Littlefield would drop his wife off at Glory Bee and then pick her up after work. Since retiring 15 years ago, he joined her at the bakery. In retirement, Skip Littlefield, 76, is looking forward to pursuing his passion: fly-fishing. “I’ve got a lot of fishing to do,” he said.
Dr. Yung Lee, a South Korean national and retired physician whose practice was in Eastwood, has worked at Glory Bee for three years. A volunteer with Jail Ministry, Lee planned to help out for one day. His industry immediately impressed Littlefield and she asked him to stay. “It’s great,” he said. “It’s very interesting.” Glory Bee was founded in the mid 1970s when Polly Walsh, who owned a bakery, donated her equipment to Jail Ministry. The first kitchen was in the basement of Lutheran Atonement Church and the first bakers were Paul Frazier and Jim Dempsey, both of whom were heavily influenced by the Catholic Worker movement.
“Making bread, by hand, is a small-scale, decentralized, self-help activity,” Frazier wrote in an account of the spirit behind Glory Bee and its establishment. “Bread making keeps us close to each other….The mystical unity created by baking and sharing bread is known through the ages and through the church and the Mystical Body of Christ.” The breads and pastries made by Glory Bee include white, wheat, oatmeal, raisin and cinnamon, Kilkenny, buttermilk egg twist, walnut, sticky buns and cinnamon nut squirrels.
When she isn’t baking, Littlefield looks to drum up business from new churches throughout Central New York. Just fewer than 20 parishes currently sell bread to parishioners after Mass. Earl Holmes, the brother of Jail Ministry director Melody Holmes, took over Glory Bee last week. Those seeking more information about Glory Bee should call (315) 424-1877.