Free Dough Hugs created to comfort friends, neighbors amid pandemic

Top: Jeremy Raney greets those in need of a “dough hug” due to the pandemic. Left: A sample: sourdough bread, Focaccia and cinnamon rolls. Right: Jeremy and his husband, Danny. Photos by Robin Dorner.

by Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

Jeremy Raney is a self-described “people person.” Although he is happily married to his husband, Danny, he still needs people.

“You see, I love people; I need people,” said Raney. “I’m known for my bear hugs, and all of a sudden, I saw that all go away.”

Raney said he began feeling depressed and knew he needed interaction with others.

“My way to cope was to turn to my other passion, and that is cooking,” he said. “I started just making bread and giving it away. That turned to more and more people asking for bread, and then I made the mistake of making cinnamon rolls.

He said after that, requests went through the roof. He started a Facebook group that grew so fast he made it a page for better tracking. At one point, he had between 40 and 50 pickups a day.

“I get up in the morning, have coffee and start baking and literally will bake till 8 p.m. to keep up with demand,” he said. “I am now in the transition of going back to my duties as a Realtor, so I am scaling down to allow pickups only on Fridays and Saturdays.”

Raney attended culinary school at Escoffier in Austin, TX., which ignited a passion in him for cooking.

“I always said a was a cook, not a baker, Raney exclaimed. “I now feel more connected with baking, and that bread can be manipulated, and flavors can be developed from the most basic of ingredients: flour, water, yeast or sourdough, and salt. But depending on how you manipulate the dough, you can change the flavor.”

Raney said the most rewarding thing for him has been the reaction people have and all the amazing friends he has made.

“I believe people are inherently good and that we choose how we act or react to situations we are faced with,” he said. “I could easily just sit on the couch and ‘batch and complain’ about the pandemic. I  could be negatively reactive to it, or I could choose to lighten a load and brighten a day by offering a little bit of light in a darkening time.

“I choose to be a light.”

He said many people have written him notes, cards and even a painting was given to him in appreciation for what he is doing.

“I may not be changing lives, but definitely brightening them. I had a person tell me they hadn’t wanted to get out of bed, but because I was giving away cinnamon rolls, it encouraged them to get up, take a shower, and get dressed; it gave them strength to break a funk they were falling into.

“I get notes and cards and even people sending words of encouragement as far away as Bemidji, Minnesota, from Texas, Tennessee and from all over Oklahoma. “I choose to brighten my little spot here in the Village, and I hope it inspires others to do something to pay it forward.”

He said the support of his husband has been amazing.

“He hardly complains about the layer of flour dust that settles on everything throughout our house!” said Raney. “I love how we invest in one others dreams and help support what the other is doing. My church has been incredible in giving me a commercial 20 qt mixer and sugar and flour bins, making life so much easier.

“I think what has really kept me going though is the reactions and excitement I get from others. To be honest, one of the things as a member of the LGBTQ+ community I get to do something that changes people’s perception, and that means everything to me. People get to know me as a person first and then get introduced to my husband, and you get that moment of surprise then acceptance. It has been amazing.”

But what about the cost?

“This has been the most amazing thing of all. I don’t charge people for anything, but donations are accepted. I have been given hundreds of lbs of flour and sugar, bags of oranges, bottles of vanilla, dozens of eggs, a lot of butter, gallons of milk, yeast and more. People will send donations through Venmo, Cashapp and Paypal, not to mention cash.”

He said he has not used his own money to buy anything other than what he bought to get started.

Raney said he feels people are in control of how they adjust to change.

“We choose to sit down and be angry, upset, or mad, or we can choose to do something to make the situation better. I love people; I believe in people, and think we have more in common than we have differences. I’m not out here to change the world. Just brighten my part of it.”

Jeremy and Free Dough Hugs bakes on Fridays and Saturdays. Go to their Facebook page and book a pick-up time.

Editors note: Free Dough Hugs has modified the "donation" and now have set "donation" rates for their goods.


White bread
Honey wheat bread
Focaccia bread
Sourdough bread
Lunch lady rolls
Orange rolls
Sourdough English muffins

Copyright The Gayly. 6/8/2020 @ 10:29 a.m. CST.