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Don't Just Learn a Recipe - Learn a Culture! with MARDA'S GIFT Film

Sheila Rittenberg Smart Conv 7-15-2021

Smart Conversation with Sheila Rittenberg of Marda's Gift and Yvonne DiVita of Nurturing Big Ideas

Three Women Who Believe

This is the story of Marda Stoliar. As told by Sheila Rittenberg, to Yvonne DiVita. Three women who believe in stories, creativity, and the power of following one's passion.

Sheila Rittenberg, my guest on Smart Conversations this week, is the executive producer of MARDA’S GIFT. A film, a story, a documentary about the ability to change lanes in life no matter your age. A tale of how baking, of learning how to bake, of taking that chance to try something new, can and does change whole communities - starting with one bakery, on one street, built and sustained by one person whose talent brings joy to multitudes. 

When we say 'community' - don't think some building where people congregate to talk politics. Don't think some online website where people go to ask when trash pickup is because of the holiday. Don't think speeches or protests or graphic murals in support of one cause of another. 

Hands that knead bread

Think people. People who love working with their hands. Hands that knead bread. Hands that create the sustenance we all need to live. Think gatherings where people laugh, and tell funny stories about their dogs, and have a meal together, to enjoy true camaraderie.  Think about people who travel hundreds of miles to do just that - break bread with their family and friends in a town over the way, across the bridge, down the road.

This is the story of MARDA'S GIFT. It's the story of how we, as a species, honor each other when we break bread together. It's a story of challenges and worries; of triumphs and joy. It's a story of song and poetry, because in our music and our narratives, the way we speak to each other, we create the songs of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Beautiful tunes, soft on the ear, filling the heart - to give back to the world in some small way, that which we had to give.

In this case, Marda gave the gift of life. 

Years ago, Marda Stoliar began telling Sheila about her students and their special reasons for learning to bake - from wanting to be free from society's expectations (willing to start a cultural change in their community) to desiring a way to help others, family members sometimes, become more than even they thought they could.

From a career in working for nonprofits, in dermatology, in public broadcasting raising funds for documentary productions, Sheila decided she needed something different when she retired. Something more creative. Something to spark or ignite her inner spirit of imagination - that friend from childhood that we too often stifle when we become adults.

Marda's stories lit Sheila’s internal creative tinder box as she listened to Marda talk about her work and its impact in the world. Moved by the power of stories to change the world, Sheila knew Marda was a gift the world needed to hear about. Telling her tale - sharing the story - creating the narrative - of how one woman, in one small Oregon town was making a difference at home and across the world was not something Sheila felt she could pass up.

Here's the story in a nutshell - the one you'll see when you watch the video: Marda Stoliar is a baker. She teaches European baking. To folks who need a craft, a purpose, a skill that will allow them to change lanes in life. Marda has worked with girls in Pakistan, girls on the street, to teach them how to bake, to give them a marketable skill and get them off the street.

Marda worked with two sisters in LA, a banker and a nurse, who decided they wanted to start a bakery instead of continuing on the path they were on. And, featured in MARDA'S GIFT Film (much more about that in the video) is a family. A father who was an emergency room physician and a would-be baker who also wanted to teach his daughter, who has Down syndrome, a skill she could use to feel she was a valuable member of their community.

All of these people, and hundreds - yes, hundreds! - are or were Marda's students. People who felt a need to follow "the road less traveled." 

There is more. There is so much more!!! After working with 300 students, you can only imagine how many stories Marda has to tell.

Learn a Culture Not Just a Recipe

Sheila reveals that a big part of the tale is that when these people come to Marda to learn to bake, they don't just learn a recipe - they learn a culture. In fact, Marda also designs bakeries and might have architectural drawings on her kitchen counter when you come to her house for your baking lesson. Designed for one student or another, to help with the launch of a new bakery!  

I cannot imagine anyone passing up this story!  The emotional experience of hearing about Marda has me joyful and enchanted. Think of it - one 80 year old woman with not only a passion to help others but a refusal to allow society to dictate how she should act and feel at an age many of us associate with slowing down.

You need to learn more about she helped revitalize one small town in Wyoming - by teaching someone to bake. Is your mouth watering yet? It should be!

MARDA'S GIFT is about the humanity in baking and the humanity in how this woman teaches a skill, brings out a talent, offers a new path to those who seek her out.

Here's where you come in. Watch the video. Enjoy the story - and there is no doubt you will enjoy it! And then share. Ask others to share. Visit the MARDA'S GIFT website where there is a donate button on every page - for you to support this much needed inspirational story - this true American story.

Four really solid reasons you might want to do this: Award-winning director Kate McMahon, owner of Kate McMahon Productions, LLC, in collaboration with producer Daria Matza, is developing MARDA’S GIFT as an original documentary short for Sheila as executive producer. And, my BFF, Toby Bloomberg, is co-executive producer. An all-female team of talented professionals. Bringing the story of MARDA'S GIFT to you, for you, and with you, when you give your support.

Come on, ladies, everywhere. This is for US! To celebrate our talents, as women in the world of serving people who deserve to have that second chance. MARDA'S GIFT- what a truly amazing way to do that. 

Visit the website. Scroll around. Click the donate button and donate.

This page, at the bottom, has a link to the trailer of the upcoming film. Visit it! It's fantastic!

Ready to be part of the fan club, the community? Hop over to Facebook.   

Visit Marda on Instagram here

Subscribe to the Nurturing Big Ideas YouTube channel for more Smart Conversations and... to be notified when I meet with Sheila, Toby (my BFF Toby Bloomberg, of course) and... MARDA! You know you want to meet Marda, yes, you do!




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