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An Amazing Mother's Day Story: Struggling Mom Was About To Give Up Her Five Kids... But Greyston's Open Hiring Business Model Saved The Day





YONKERS, NY (4/26/21) - All that Shawna Swanson (a Yonkers resident) wanted was a chance to work. But this single mother of five’s child care responsibilities and lack of work experience were holding her back. Constantly rejected by employers, she was desperate to find the means to keep her family together, so much so, she thought about giving up her children for adoption.

Then, she heard about Greyston Bakery and she applied for a job, never thinking she’d actually get one. Amazingly Greyston never asked her for her resume, did no background check, asked no questions – just offered her a job and some training. That’s because Greyston’s Open Hiring® business model, and their heart and soul mission, is to provide employment and no-cost development programs to anyone in need. The object is to turn lives around.

“Our mission is about how we can unleash the power of human potential through more inclusive hiring practices,” explained Joe Kenner, Greyston’s CEO. “We have been leading this effort with our Open Hiring model since 1982.   Stories like Shawn’s embody our mission. My hope is that others will join us on this great journey.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Stewart’s amazing, inspiring experience has been captured in a new documentary, “Wide Open Dreams,” created by a young Westchester Community College film student, that will be released on May 18 via a virtual premier party and fundraiser to benefit Greyston’s workforce development and community wellness programs.   

“The film wasn’t merely a school assignment,” explains Paulina Jaskiewicz, the film’s director who discovered Greyston as a member of WCC’s "Commit to Change" group. “This was my way of inspiring others to use their talents to better society and help those in need. When I met Shawna, and heard about her struggles and her success, I knew hers was the story I wanted to tell.”

Jaskiewicz was moved to learn more about the organization’s mission and use her talents to show others how businesspeople can change lives. “I couldn’t imagine how a business could be successful by hiring anyone who asked for a job,” she said. “After doing some research and learning more about Greyston’s mission, I knew that other companies should be doing something like this.”

“Wide Open Dreams,” or Shawna’s heartwarming story, will be released on May 18 at 7:00 pm via Zoom for the film premiere, followed by a panel discussion about how companies can create positive change in the communities where they do business. Panelists will include: Shawna, Paulina, Greyston CEO Joe Kenner, and Cheryl Pinto, global values-based sourcing manager at Ben & Jerry’s – Greyston’s long-term partner. This event is proudly sponsored by Saffron Road and Verizon.

The registration fee for the event is $150 per person, however, Greyston is offering free access to members of the media.

Learn more about the making of the film at wideopendreamsfilm.com.



Greyston is a social justice enterprise working to create job opportunities and provide services that enable self-sufficiency through the Open Hiring® business model. It provides employment and no-cost development programs to anyone in need to better our communities, and meet our combined social, environmental, and financial goals. In serving the people of Southwest Yonkers, New York, Greyston promotes inclusion, offers support to disenfranchised people, battles against systemic inequities, and advocates for a level playing field for all, regardless of their pasts.

For nearly 40 years, the organization has opened its doors to those who ordinarily face rejection, and offered individuals and communities struggling to prosper and opportunity to thrive. Greyston creates pathways to success through a variety of workforce development and community wellness programs; and scales its mission through Centers for Open Hiring that assist other companies in successfully investing in human potential and building economically robust businesses and communities.

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