Yes, there is good in this world, and sometimes it comes smothered under a layer of Funfetti frosting, with a few birthday candles on top.
Some of the sweeter moments happening in the Twin Cities are courtesy of For Goodness Cakes, an organization of volunteers who bake birthday cakes for foster children and at-risk youth. Headquartered in Los Angeles and located in cities across the country, the organization (forgoodnesscakes.org) recently added its first Midwestern chapter in Minneapolis, led by Edina residents Allison Sundquist and Kim Sabow.
"There's something so special about that moment when the candles on a cake are lit and people start to sing 'Happy Birthday,' " Sabow said. "It's a little thing to remind someone that they're special."
Yet that precious moment is often missing for the kids served by the organization, Sundquist said. "A lot of them haven't been able to experience the feeling when everything is directed at them in a loving way."
As part of their preparation to become an authorized chapter, the two women traveled to Los Angeles in January to meet the organization's founder and executive director, Jaime Lehman, and the board of directors. They received training and saw the power of those birthday cakes in action.
"We visited an agency and were able to see one girl getting her cake. She was so moved, she put her hands over her face," Sabow recalled.
"She couldn't believe it was all for her. I don't think she'd ever been in the spotlight like that. We think every kid should have the opportunity to feel special in that way and to know that someone has baked a cake just for them."
The local For Goodness Cakes chapter has 55 volunteers ready to bake and deliver cakes all over the metro area. What they're lacking now are more partner agencies to accept those cakes and get them to the birthday kids.
"I know it's been an intensely challenging time for many nonprofits, so this is far from being the first thing they're focused on," Sundquist said. "These organizations are strapped for time and money, so they don't usually have the capacity to have birthday celebrations."
"We're the ones who can help make that happen," she said. "When I do get an opportunity to introduce myself to them over the phone and let them know what we do, they're amazed at the idea. 'You really mean it's free?' is the most common question I get."
The agencies which have accepted cakes since the chapter's official kickoff in October have appreciated them deeply. Kendrea Dickson is assistant director of the child care center at People Serving People, which began receiving cakes from For Goodness Cakes in November.
"They're committed to putting smiles on children's faces by providing them with the gift of celebration," she said. "It's important to the community that we serve, especially during these times. The cakes put the 'cherry on top' of a child's special day."
The organization's volunteers are called the Sprinkle Squad, and if that doesn't make you smile, then you need to stop right now, eat some cake and pick up reading after you've finished. Squad members are required to complete an online orientation that includes food safety training. During the pandemic, they must commit to baking their cakes while wearing masks and gloves.
An online birthday calendar allows selection of cake assignments by date and delivery location. Once a cake is baked, it's dropped off at the designated agency, which delivers it to the birthday child. (For privacy reasons, bakers don't meet their cake recipients.)
If your baking isn't up to Great British Baking Show standards, don't worry. "You don't have to be a pastry chef, just someone who loves to bake and give back," Sabow said. "Boxed mixes are perfectly acceptable."
Right now, the most often-requested theme from the kids is a "Frozen"-decorated cake. One child asked for a cheesecake, which was decorated with a Mario Brothers theme. And if you love this idea but lack any kitchen skills, the organization is set up to receive donations that will enable them to keep serving up beautiful cakes on special days.
Julie Kendrick is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer who always has room for Funfetti. Follow her on Twitter @KendrickWorks.