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A bakery in New York City is serving up cookies and second chances

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

OK, here's one of those stories that makes me want sweets. A bakery in New York is serving up cookies and second chances. And the woman behind it is Janie Deegan.

JANIE DEEGAN: We have an open-door hiring policy, meaning that, you know, no matter what your life situation is right now or has been in the past, we look at the person you show up as today at the interview as the candidate, the whole candidate and the whole picture.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Deegan started Janie's Life-Changing Baked Goods about a decade ago after emerging from a struggle with addiction and homelessness. Now she's offering a new start to employees like Jane Hensley, who was trying to find work after almost three years in prison.

JANE HENSLEY: She was the first person to offer me a job, and that was a miracle to me, that someone would be willing to hire me and trust me, considering that I was basically unhirable (ph).

FADEL: Hensley says she's rebuilding her life at the bakery and at Columbia University, where she's studying film.

HENSLEY: I'm in Janie's shoes right now, and I'm still kind of starting off completely from scratch. And she's the first person to advocate for anyone that's made a mistake and given them the same opportunity that she was given.

FADEL: Janie Deegan understands. She says her own sobriety didn't come easy, but her love of baking helped her reconnect.

DEEGAN: I started bringing baked goods everywhere I went because I had nothing else to contribute, I felt. You know, I really credit people eating my baked goods and seeing their reactions with helping me build self-esteem and self-love.

INSKEEP: Something to contribute - wow. Deegan started her business in a tiny apartment with a minifridge full of butter, but today her bakery has two locations in New York City, and she is working on getting her signature pie crust cookies - wow - into grocery stores.

DEEGAN: I really think that people giving me, like, a billion second chances, despite my background and despite what I was up against, is what helped me get to where I am today.

FADEL: Customers are giving people a second chance when they go ahead and have a second cookie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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