Slice of life: Long Beach mom bakes bread for elderly neighbors

Shelley Hanks wants to teach her teenage daughters the importance of helping and giving, especially during a crisis. This is why in the weeks since the city of Long Beach shut down public spaces and mandated a stay-at-home order, Hanks has been baking fresh, two-pound loaves of white bread for her neighbors in Bay Harbor, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s.

“The one thing that you could use right now is comfort food,” Hanks said. “And this [bread] is comfort food, for sure.”

Her teenage daughters, Sierra, a 16-year-old junior at Millikan High School, and Hunter, a 19-year-old sophomore at Cal State Long Beach, help Hanks with baking and delivering the bread. In addition, Hanks has been giving out bottles of hand sanitizer while helping some neighbors, fearful of leaving their homes, with grocery shopping.

The idea of baking bread for her neighbors came to her after a trip to the grocery store. Hanks saw that items such as rice, bread and pasta were sold out, so she knew that her neighbors were likely struggling to find the same goods. So, she thought, why not do something that will delight her neighbors while feeding them at the same time?

It hasn’t always been easy to find the proper ingredients—bread flour and yeast were especially difficult to come by—but once she obtained all of them, she set to work. She estimates she’s made about 13 loaves for her friends and neighbors who are predominately the focus of her efforts. She says the camaraderie and care she’s seen from her neighbors, who are all constantly checking in on one another, is what keeps her spirits up.

“If we all take care of each other, we’re all going to be OK,” she said.

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Cheantay Jensen is an editorial intern who covers art and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post.