Loretto co-member Jossy Eyre, founder of Women’s Bean Project, was a trailblazer
Editor’s Note: Jossy Eyre died on April 20, 2020. Her legacy lives on as WBP continues its work with vulnerable women. Remembrance written by Tamra Ryan, CEO, Women’s Bean Project.
Jossy Eyre founded Women’s Bean Project (WBP) in 1989 as a result of her volunteer work at a day shelter for homeless women. Jossy saw that while the shelter kept women safe, it wasn’t helping them make lasting changes in their lives. Jossy bought $500 worth of beans and put two homeless women to work — the first step in building Women’s Bean Project, the social enterprise. Jossy believed that paying women a wage was critical for self-respect and long-term success, and that chronically unemployed women needed a job training program with a longer duration and more intensive services than those generally available.
From its humble beginnings, the Bean Project has grown into a nationally-known transitional employment program that operates within a manufacturing operation. More than 1,000 disadvantaged women have earned their futures at WBP; training opportunities and annual product sales have grown dramatically; and the organization’s reach has expanded to include a sales presence in 1,000 stores across the U.S. The social enterprise model gives WBP a sustainable way to achieve its mission and usher those with significant barriers into the economic mainstream.
From Jossy’s original vision to address unmet social needs, Women’s Bean Project’s overarching purpose — to provide a transitional job as a stepping stone to self-sufficiency — has remained constant.
Many years after leaving the Bean Project, Jossy stayed involved by visiting annually to recruit program participants to spiritual retreats sponsored by the Sisters of Loretto. Whether she was making a visit to the Bean Project or traveling the world to help marginalized women find their power through employment, Jossy’s determination was ever-present. The team at Women’s Bean Project is proud that we have stayed true to her original vision while growing our business to have a greater impact than Jossy dreamed possible.