Evanston farmers market stand promotes change with baked goods


Illustration by Emily Lichty

Misericordia Hearts and Flour Bakery sells a variety of baked goods, including cookies and mini bread loaves.

Emily Lichty, Reporter

Every Saturday in the summer and fall, shoppers at the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market gravitate towards the bright red Misericordia Hearts and Flour Bakery tent, where they can pick up mini loaves of zucchini bread and mint double chocolate cookies.

This particular stand’s impact in the community reaches beyond sweet treats. The baked goods are a source of fundraising for Misericordia, Heart of Mercy, a Chicago-based charity that offers residential services, programming and jobs to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Misericordia residents and volunteers bake the goods sold at the Misericordia Hearts and Flour Bakery. 

Bienen and Weinberg junior Steven Wilke said he frequents the Misericordia stand every weekend. 

“I have been coming here for a really long time. (The products) are just so delicious, and they are for a really great mission, too,” Wilke said. “These are my favorite cookies of all time.”

The stand is one of nearly 60 vendors at the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market, which is open Saturday for the last week of the season. 

Stand manager and Misericordia parent Jonathan Utley provides the inventory for the stand, trains volunteers and decides what products to bring. Utley said the stand also educates the Evanston community about Misericordia’s work.

“Most people in Evanston know of us, but … that’s different from being in physical contact,” Utley said. “Other than pumping a lot of sugar into your bloodstream, what do we do for the community? We hope to educate (the community) in a very laid back, quiet way.”

Misericordia is a national Catholic charity that provides residences to more than 600 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Many of the volunteers who work at the tent are parents of residents at Misericordia.

“It gives me something to do that I feel really positive about,” volunteer Peggy Bourke said. “My daughter is at Misericordia, so it is a give-back situation. They do so much for her. That’s really why I am here.”

Stand volunteer Alice Eysenbach said she’s been coming to the farmers market since she moved to Evanston 34 years ago. 

Eysenbach, whose daughter also lives at Misericordia, said she loves getting to know the stand’s regulars. 

“I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of wonderful parents, mostly moms of young people with disabilities, and talk about Misericordia,” Eysenbach said. “I also get to talk to everybody (in Evanston) about what we do.”

The market draws in a number of repeat customers, including Evanston resident Darlene Mallek, who shops at the Misericordia stand every weekend.

Mallek returns to the Misericordia stand frequently to pick up mini Irish soda bread loaves, which she said are her mother’s favorite. The stand sells a wide selection of baked goods including cookies, cake muffins and bread loaves. They also have seasonal options such as a pumpkin gingerbread loaf. 

“People remember people here, and they talk to you,” Mallek said. “Nobody’s in a big hurry, and you discover new stuff … I love it. It just feels like a fun place to hang out on a Saturday morning.”

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Twitter: @emilymlichty

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