LA’s Father Gregory Boyle to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – NBC Los Angeles

Father Gregory Boyle, founder and director of the successful Homeboy Industries gang-intervention and rehabilitation program in Los Angeles, will be recognized with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom Friday at the White House.

Boyle, a Jesuit Catholic priest, worked with church and community members East Los Angeles area in the late 1980s to start Homeboy Industries, which began as a bakery that taught former gang members to bake and expanded into one of the world’s most successful intervention programs.

The Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. Boyle will be one of 19 recipients during a ceremony scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday at the White House.

Boyle was pastor at Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights, located in an area with a high concentration of gang activity, from 1986 to 1992. After witnessing devastating violence during what became known as the Decade of Death from 1988-1998, Boyle joined church and community members in 1988 to launch what would become Homeboy Industries.

The program that began as a single bakery flourished, providing former gang members with training and services to pursue a better life. The bakery still employs dozens of Homeboy Industries trainees and supplies products for spinoffs like Homeboy Farmers Market, Homeboy Diner and Homegirl Catering, and other restaurants around Los Angeles through Homeboy Bakery Wholesale.

Over the decades that followed the start of the first bakery, Homeboy Industries expanded into a broad range of social enterprises.

“We moved from being job-centered to healing-centered, that an employed gang member may or may not go back to prison, or an eduated one may or may not re-offend,” Boyle said in a 2022 interview on NBC4’s NewsConference. “But then it became our absolute contention that a healed gang member will never go back to prison. So, we have a confidence in that now. So, healing first, all the other stuff is secondary to people discovering the truth of who they are. That they’re exactly what God had in mind when God made them. You watch people here in a cherishing community as they become that truth and inhabit that truth. Then, they’re sturdy. They’re resilient.”

The retail bakery is at 130 West Bruno Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Boyle is a California Peace Prize recipient and member of the California Hall of Fame. He also received the University of Notre Dame’s 2017 Laetare Medal, the oldest honor awarded to American Catholics.

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