Local nonprofit spreads love, joy and frosting.
Can a cake make a difference? Can a concoction of batter meets frosting cure what ails? At times, the answer is “yes.” For Goodness Cakes, which originated in California, unites nationwide chapters of volunteer bakers, who bake and deliver birthday cakes to foster children and at-risk youth.
Maple Grove’s Maureen Reagan signed up as a volunteer in April. “I recently lost my job, and while deciding what comes next, I wanted to explore volunteer opportunities,” she says. “I had volunteered in the past, but with everything going on in the world, that had come to a halt.”
For Goodness Cakes was the right fit. “When I was growing up [in Gaylord, Minn.], my mom always made a special cake for our birthdays,” Reagan says. “It always made me feel loved. I continued the tradition when I raised my four children.”
Allison Sundquist of Edina discovered For Goodness Cakes in late 2019 while researching ways to combine her passions for baking and volunteering. Its mission excited Sundquist so much that she couldn’t help but share what she’d learned with Edina’s Kim Sabow, who had recently sent her youngest child off to university and considered the timing perfect to partner with Sundquist and start a Twin Cities chapter of For Goodness Cakes.
Within four weeks, the duo was on an airplane bound for a For Goodness Cakes chapter summit. They’d been undeterred by an early rebuff from the organization. “We were told they’d already brought in enough agencies,” Sabow says. “But I called the person in charge and said, ‘You want us on your team. You have no idea how good we’ll be.’” She was not wrong. An initial and immediate requirement was for the women to raise $4,000 in startup costs [licensing fees and funding for volunteer management software]. “It’s amazing how people came through to help us raise the money in only eight weeks,” she says.
The organization partners with about 20 local agencies that work with underserved and underprivileged youth. Partner agencies often work with children in foster care, young adults aging out of foster care or adoption agencies, homeless shelters or agencies that aid young victims of sex trafficking. The partner agencies request cakes, and Sundquist and Sabow match those requests with volunteer bakers, using the software system funded by their startup and ongoing donations.
Volunteer bakers, dubbed “The Sprinkle Squad,” come from all over the Twin Cities Metro, even a few in Wisconsin, and have varied baking backgrounds—from professional to home cooks. All are hungry to deliver joy to a child. (Volunteer bakers don’t typically get to meet the children they bake for; to ensure child safety, volunteers take their cakes to For Goodness Cakes’ partner agencies, which deliver the requested cakes to the children.)
For Goodness Cakes made its first cake delivery in October 2020. Volunteers, numbering about 150, have since delivered over 120 birthday or graduation cakes with many more deliveries planned as the word gets out and partner agencies resume more services.
For Goodness Cakes is adamant about food safety. Volunteer bakers must be at least 18 years old (unless partnered with a parent), participate in orientation training and pass a food safety course. “I felt the training was helpful,” Reagan says. “It was a good reminder of food safety.” The organization cannot honor allergen-free cake requests as there is no method of ensuring allergen-free kitchens. Also, throughout the pandemic, volunteer bakers have been required to remain masked throughout any cake baking and delivery.
“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback from agencies that are grateful for the collaboration,” Sundquist says. “One agency we work with is called Common Bond Communities. It was through them [that For Goodness Cakes] delivered its first graduation cake for a girl, who got her GED. She cried because the cake was so beautiful and because her name was spelled correctly. It has a unique spelling, and many don’t get it right. It’s just so cool for kids, some who have never received a personalized cake to celebrate them. I tell our volunteers to never underestimate the value of what they’re doing. They’re not just delivering a cake. They’re delivering a message to a child that someone cares about them in their community.”
Sundquist and Sabow aim for continued growth of their Twin Cities chapter by welcoming more partner agencies and volunteers. The duo is especially hoping for a corporate sponsorship or collaboration opportunity. “Many of our volunteers use products from local companies like General Mills, Nordic Ware and Land O’ Lakes,” Sundquist says. “Any help in partnering with corporate sponsors, companies like these, on a local or national level would be wonderful. We are definitely open to those conversations.”
Reagan stresses the importance of giving back to worthy causes. “I think it is important to give of your time and money if you are able to organizations that help others in need,” she says. “I have been involved in volunteering off and on my whole life. When I worked for McKesson Corporation, they provided time for volunteering, and you could also earn money toward the charity of your choice. That was an important perk for me, and I feel more companies should provide the opportunity to give back to the community. It provides a sense of satisfaction that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Ongoing financial donations are needed to fund For Goodness Cakes’ Twin Cities operations. “We often tell people, ‘If you can’t bake, donate,’” Sundquist says. Any interested volunteers or donors can learn more by visiting forgoodnesscakes.org/twincities-mn.