Living by the Code of the Cookie


A local baking company sweetens the deal for women in recovery.

Written by Allison Crotwell; Photography by Liesa Cole

 

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” These words, initially crafted by C.S. Lewis, perfectly capture what one father and son team has set out to make possible.

Director of Operations James K. Turnipseed.

Inspiration and hope can come from the most unlikely places, and for Jim Turnipseed, it happened after hearing the stories of local women recovering from addiction and learning how difficult it is for them to find employment opportunities. Jim has worked hard his whole life to build a respected career with a long track record of success. His son, James K. (JK) Turnipseed, is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Their distinctive skills and knowledge created the inspiration for Jim to take the business acumen that has served him well in the corporate world in a different direction.

The outcome of their combined efforts is a small bakery in Eastaboga, Ala. with a big mission—to create employment opportunities for women in rehabilitation programs.

All of my senses were immediately engaged when I walked through the doors of this small, tidy operation. I was welcomed by the heavenly aroma of cookies, their warm scent inviting and tempting. I heard Carrie Underwood’s strong, confident voice belting a tune from the radio and saw bright eyes and a beautiful face smiling at me as an employee carefully moved warm, thick cookies from the oven onto a cooling rack. I was enthusiastically greeted by another woman busy scooping fresh red velvet cookie dough onto baking sheets. The smiles, laughter and friendly banter taking place among the women indicate this is a safe, special place, and I was immediately drawn to the ladies of Color Code Cookies as they told me about themselves and the bakery. I learned working at the bakery is like joining a sisterhood of sorts; the women support, watch out for and hold each other accountable.

Jim founded the bakery in Eastaboga in August of 2016. Rebel Negley, general manager and self-proclaimed Queen of Cookies strategically and energetically manages the small, dedicated team. The staff includes JK, who serves as director of operations, and Alex Jones, director of marketing. Together they have turned an idea to help women in recovery get a leg up into a sustainable business that inspires change and creates opportunities.

General Manager Rebel Negley with some of the staff.

The bakery understands the women they hire have had a hard time finding and maintaining jobs. Most traditional businesses lack the flexibility needed by many women in recovery. The women working in the bakery are balancing personal responsibilities and often managing legal obligations while working hard to stay sober. The bakery, unlike many other businesses, can scale their production needs and tweak schedules based on the needs of the women they employ.

The bakery provides employees with health insurance, encourages them to continue their education, brings in outside agencies for social services, and teaches workforce and life-skills development. These often-overlooked details can play a crucial role in recovery and help decrease the risk of relapsing and falling back into the cycle of addiction.

Negley describes how the bakery operates: A Monday morning meeting launches each work week, beginning with a devotional, discussion of the week’s priorities, and role assignments. “It’s important the women rotate responsibilities, so they are exposed to different areas of the bakery’s operations,” Negley says. She stresses how this provides the women with insight into the operations and teaches the fundamental tools necessary for professional development.

The bakery is still in its infancy, but it already has established a number of recurring accounts. Currently, Color Code Cookies is working with convenience store wholesalers and many retail stores to get their products out to a broader audience. The business offers fundraising opportunities to other organizations through the sale of their Color Code Cookies. In fact, their success has prompted the bakery to increase their production and further their efforts in product placement and sales.

Marketing Director Alex Jones

The name behind Color Code Cookies is a direct reference to Alabama’s random drug testing policy dictated by state law. This policy assigns past offenders a color and requires them to make a weekly call to the hotline. They listen to a recorded message identifying which color must report for drug testing within 24 hours or risk being re-incarcerated. The women employed at the bakery are familiar with Alabama’s color code system, and the bakery itself has a zero-tolerance policy requiring a separate random drug screening protocol for all employees.   

In addition to serving a powerful mission, the bakery products cookies that stand out in their own right. The bakery currently has three mainstay Color Code Cookie flavors—red velvet, M&M and oatmeal raisin in addition to seasonal offerings. The cookies are as delectable as they smell; it’s hard to decide on a favorite, which is music to the ears of JK, who creates and tweaks to perfection all recipes for the bakery. Meanwhile, the young business plans to build on their current offerings, including adding a regional product line, firmly believing that the sky is the limit for the bakery and the women they employ. In fact, Negley tells me they have applied for and expect to receive 501©3 nonprofit status any day, which would enable The Color Code Foundation to increase and diversify its outreach.

Symbolism is a large part of the culture, woven into everything about the bakery. The imagery of Color Code Cookies represents how serious the organization is about owning its mission by showing there is hope for addiction recovery, spreading the message that everyone deserves a second chance, and demonstrating how sweet the taste of redemption can be when a community comes together to be part of the solution.

 

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