Stranded Houston Bakers Trapped by Flooding Make Bread for Hurricane Survivors: 'Why Not Do Our Little Part?'
"I'm happy to be a part of the effort to aid those in need," Kirk Michaelis, 56, El Bolillo's owner, tells PEOPLE. "We all are."
Since the bakery hadn’t been flooded and his family was safe, the 45-year-old father of two came up with a plan: He and the other bakers would bake as many sheets of pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) as they could to help feed hungry Hurricane Harvey survivors.
While floodwaters were on the rise, so were several hundred dozen balls of bread dough in the little bakery and cafe off Wayside Drive.
More than 4,200 pounds of flour and four days later, the bakers are still at it, giving away thousands of loaves and pastries to anyone who wants them and delivering box after box of baked goods to area shelters, along with bakers from another of El Bolillo’s three locations.
“Jorge and the other guys could have quit working — they certainly had an excuse,” Kirk Michaelis, 56, El Bolillo’s owner, tells PEOPLE. “But since they were trapped, they decided to turn it into a positive thing and keep baking. They felt the same as I do: with so many in need in our community, why not do our little part to help?”
Jorge, who didn’t see his wife and two daughters for four days, says it never occurred to him to do anything else.
“I was happy that my family and my home were all right — I’m one of the fortunate few,” he tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t sleep and did nothing but bake for two of those days, but that’s okay. I’m happy to be a part of the effort to aid those in need. We all are.”
Although several of the bakery’s employees lost their cars and belongings due to the flooding during and after the hurricane, everyone who can is still chipping in to ensure that nobody in the community goes hungry, says Meagan Michaelis, 29, who handles the bakery’s social media accounts. The company has started a GoFundMe page for their employees who have have lost almost everything to flooding.
“People are happy and grateful to get this bread — we have long lines going out the doors every night,” she says. “There are so many who have lost much more than we have, so it feels good for our bakers to give back.”
“We’re just one company, doing what we know how to do, and that’s to bake,” adds Kirk, who is Meagan’s father. He hand-delivered more than 60 loaves of bread Thursday morning to a Pasadena, Texas, shopping mall so that 300 people could each have a slice or two with their breakfast.
“Working together like this is what is going to help Houston unite and come together again,” he tells PEOPLE. “People will once again know their neighbors. If giving away our bread helps make that happen, it’s a positive thing all around.”