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Volunteer bakers find helping kids is "a piece of cake"

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LEXINGTON, Ky.-- On a recent day in the basement of Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, there really couldn't have been too many chefs in the kitchen. A group of volunteers had orders to make 132 birthday cakes, all of them to be given to children living in poverty or with life-threatening illnesses or special needs.

"We make them feel special and we do it with cake," said Ashley Gann.

Seven years ago , Gann founded Sweet Blessings when she felt her life being pulled in a new direction. She had a master's degree in public health, but a fascination with baking cakes.

"One day I was sitting in church and the pastor was talking about inner-city outreach in downtown Lexington and I realized I was supposed to use cake to reach out to children and families."

When she realized many families can't afford to give their children even a basic birthday cake, she knew she had the recipe for making a difference.

These are not basic sheet cakes. Each one is tiered and covered in fondant, tailor made to match a child's interests or hobbies. Volunteers become artists, even though many of them have never decorated a fancy cake before.

Gann said, "If you can use a cookie cutter, we can teach you how to do this.:

Volunteer Deena Wheby agrees: "I've learned how to stack cakes which I've never done before.. learned to use fondant which I normally don't use, so yes, it's a good teaching experience for us as well."

Some of the cakes have superhero themes. or sports designs. Others represent Star Wars, unicorns or video game systems. When one boy expressed a love for sloths, a decorator was happy to tackle that challenge.

Gann says some of the more intricate cakes would cost more than $400 at a bakery. The first year, the organization baked 163 cakes. Last year, that number jumped to 2,730.

The cakes are requested for children through referral agencies and because of privacy issues, the volunteers won't see the recipients. That's OK with them, They prefer to be secret servants.

"It would be pretty good (to see them)," said volunteer Gloria Andrade. "But it's not about me getting the attention for making that cake, so it's better not to be there."

"Lots of moms and dads say 'I can't believe you'd do this for someone you've never met,'" Gann said.


The volunteers do get thank you cards and photos and know they're making a difference. For them, baking cakes is a birthday tradition that never gets old.


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Sweet Blessings raises money each May through the Great Cake 5-K at Keeneland. To get information about the race or other giving opportunities, go to sweetsblessingscakes.org.


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