Third in a series of profiles of those honored as The Best of Reston.
When the Northern Virginia Women’s Interfaith Fellowship held a candlelight vigil to honor those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001, Jack and Laurie Corkey were not in the country. However, the Corkeys wanted to make sure the people participating were fed, so they provided bread from their Great Harvest Bread Company store in Herndon.
“They go out of their way to support the events and people even if they are not there,” said Farhanaz Abdu Haseeb, the chairperson for interfaith relations at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS). She added Jack and Laurie Corkey are people full of details. A native of Panama, she instructed the Corkeys to visit her favorite restaurant when they visited there. Haseeb told them to do so for their own good, to experience what she thought is the best her country has to offer in terms of food and service.
Upon their return, they presented her with a photograph from 1952, the restaurant. Haseeb said receiving the photograph was touching, and shows Jack and Laurie Corkey to be people who go out of their way to make those around them feel special. That is how they run their business as well, said Haseeb.
JACK AND LAURIE Corkey opened the Great Harvest Bread Company in Herndon in 1990 after visiting another Great Harvest bakery in Lexington, Ky. At that time, the Lexington location was the closest Great Harvest store to their community. The Corkeys believed in what Great Harvest’s mission is, among other things to give generously to others. Since taking ownership of their bakery in Herndon, the Corkeys have offered their time and bread to a number of community events and organizations. Their dedication to the community is why they were selected as The Best of Reston Award honoree for “Nourishing Our Community.”
“We just do what we do,” said Jack Corkey, “we don’t do it to be honored.” He said it is fun to give bread away, and while it is nice to be honored, it does not alter in any way what they do. He described his business as a neighborhood bakery, saying most of their customers are repeat customers.
The Corkeys have hardly advertised for their bakery, but rely on their customers’ word of mouth to spread the awareness of the business’s existence. Each year, said Jack Corkey, they lose 20 to 25 percent of their customers because people move so much, but quickly regain the numbers when people make newcomers aware of the bakery. He added that when his customers have guests or family in town, they take them to the bakery with a feeling that it belongs to them.
ANOTHER WAY newcomers could learn about the bakery is by attending church services or joining nonprofit organizations in the area. Great Harvest donates all of its leftover bread to LINK, a group of churches in the Ashburn, Herndon and Sterling areas that provides food, among other things, to people in need. They also provide all of the bread for communions at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, where they provide other services as well. Laurie Corkey coordinates the Helping Hands organization at the church. The organization provides ill parishioners with meals and rides.
“If it wasn’t for Laurie this thing would have fallen apart years ago,” said Angie Gray, a volunteer with Helping Hands.
She added Laurie Corkey is a caring and giving person, who is good at providing company to those who need it most. Laurie Corkey also volunteers as a lay chaplain for the Reston Hospital Center, offering company to those who are away from home, and are not a part of a faith community. She said she spends at least a couple of hours each week visiting the patients at the hospital to offer her presence, and talk about spiritual aspects of life, if the patients want to. She said at times they do not want to talk to her about the spiritual aspects, but when they do it is a moving experience.
OTHER WAYS in which Jack and Laurie Corkey are involved in the community is by providing breadbaskets for different fund-raising auctions in the community. Usually schools or churches hold the auctions, and the Corkeys send items for auctions three to four times per week. Many times they will add a gift certificate to the bakery along with the products they send to the auctions in order to raise the value of the item.
The bakery gives one or two tours weekly, mostly to young school children on Wednesdays and Thursdays. At times it will open its doors on a day it is closed, so that an organization can take over the business. An employee of the bakery will volunteer his or her time to oversee the bread making, but all the proceeds from the day go to the organization. Jack Corkey said the bakery does not have a budget for giving away to the community, so if someone asks for its services, the call is answered quickly.
Laurie Corkey does not only offer her time and bread she helps produce, but also a talent to help raise money for her church. “She is a wonderful musician,” said Gray, adding that Laurie Corkey gives concerts at St. Anne’s Church to raise money for it. She also said Laurie Corkey is a spirit-filled person who genuinely cares and gives back to the community.
Haseeb said the Corkeys touch many people with the things they do. “They support their community, stand for their community, and do things for their community,” she said. Haseeb praised Jack Corkey for the way he runs his business, as someone who knows the people in the community, and who greets his customers by their first names and asks them about happenings in their lives. “To know them is to love them,” added Haseeb, “and what you see is what you get.”