Allison Sundquist of Edina discovered For Goodness Cakes in late 2019 while researching ways to combine her passions for baking and volunteering. For Goodness Cakes originated in California and unites nationwide chapters of volunteer bakers who bake and deliver birthday cakes to foster children and at-risk youth. The mission of For Goodness Cakes so excited Sundquist, that she couldn’t help but share what she’d learned with Kim Sabow of Edina one evening at a local cooking club when the two, never having met before, happened to attend on the same night. Sabow had recently launched her youngest off to university and considered the timing perfect to partner with Sundquist and start a Twin Cities chapter of For Goodness Cakes.
Within two months, 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,” says Sabow. “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). She says, “It’s amazing how people came through to help us raise the money in only eight weeks.”
The organization’s process is to partner with local agencies that work with underserved, under-privileged youth ages 0-24. Partner agencies often work with children in foster care, young adults aging out of foster care, or are adoption agencies, homeless shelters or agencies that aid young victims of sex trafficking. Sundquist cold-called pretty much all such agencies in the metro area to offer a partnership with For Goodness Cakes. Then, those partner agencies can make requests for cakes for the children they serve. As chapter leaders, 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, even a few in Western Wisconsin, and have varied baking backgrounds. Some have professional training; others are home cooks who just love to bake. All are hungry to deliver joy to a child, a creative outlet for bakers who desire tangible ways to give back to the community. (Volunteer bakers don’t typically get to meet the children they bake for; to ensure child safety, volunteers handoff their cakes to For Goodness Cakes’ partner agencies who in turn deliver the requested cakes to the children.)
After months of a pandemic-related pause on many such services, For Goodness Cakes made its first cake delivery in October 2020. Volunteers, numbering approximately 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 also adamant about food safety. Volunteer bakers must be at least 18 years old (unless partnered with a parent), must participate in an orientation training and must pass a food safety course with 90 percent or better. The organization cannot honor allergen-free cake requests as there is no method of ensuring allergen-free kitchens among its volunteer bakers. Also, throughout the pandemic, volunteer bakers have been required to remain masked throughout any cake baking and delivery.
Volunteer bakers cheerfully comply with safety measures. Some even think nothing of going above and beyond, like driving 30+ minutes to make a cake delivery. Many share their joy along with inspiring photos of their baked cakes on the organization’s social media pages. Count it all worthwhile when Sundquist and Sabow share feedback from partner agencies. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback from agencies that are grateful for the collaboration,” says Sundquist. “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 whom 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.”
Sabow concurs with thoughts on a film she watched about a fellow Luther College grad who, along with his wife, adopted five foster children. In the film, one of the children was in tears after being presented with a first ever birthday cake. The film affirmed for Sabow that, “There are so many children who have never had a birthday cake. I know this is what we need to be doing because it brings joy for these kids.”
These passionate women hope for continued growth of their Twin Cities chapter of For Goodness Cakes by welcoming more partner agencies and volunteer bakers. The duo is especially hoping for some type of corporate sponsorship or collaboration opportunity. Sundquist says, “Many of our volunteers use products from local companies like General Mills, Nordic Ware and Land ‘O Lakes. 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.”
Ongoing financial donations are also necessary to fund For Goodness Cakes’ Twin Cities operations. “We often tell people, ‘If you can’t bake, donate,’” says Sundquist. Any interested volunteers or donors can learn more by visiting forgoodnesscakes.org/twincities-mn.