McKenna Stremke knows her way around mixing bowls and cake stands. As owner of Kenna’s Cakes, she’s well-versed in all things mix, bake and frost, but her baking took a sweet turn when she began volunteering with For Goodness Cakes, which originated in California and unites nationwide chapters of volunteer bakers to bake birthday cakes to foster children and at-risk youth.
“The first cake I made was a Spider-Man-themed cake for a 5-year-old boy named Oliver,” Plymouth local Stremke says. “After I dropped it off, I heard that Oliver’s mom will be so happy, since usually she wouldn’t be able to provide a cake for her son. The feeling of being able to provide this for him was unlike anything else.”
Allison Sundquist of Edina discovered For Goodness Cakes in late 2019 while researching ways to combine her passions for baking and volunteering. Its mission so excited Sundquist 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 college. Sabow 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, 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 Metro, with a few even hailing from 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 the 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. 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 or 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 [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 the 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. “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 companies like these on a local or national level would be wonderful. We are definitely open to those conversations.”
While the program, hopefully, continues to grow in this area, Stremke continues to savor her experience with the program. “Knowing that my cake [that] I put so much love into making got into Oliver’s hands and created a magical birthday for him is an incredible feeling,” she says. “In addition, the For Goodness Cakes community has been so unexpected; Allison does a great job leading the Twin Cities chapter through email newsletters and our Facebook page, where we can see all of the amazing cakes other volunteers are making. It’s inspiring how many people are spending their time making special creations for others.”
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.