Bakers make birthdays sweeter for foster kids

COAST CITIES — When it comes to helping less fortunate youngsters, Alison Andreas literally takes the cake.

Thanks to her efforts, 123 of the small and large confections have been baked, decorated and delivered this year to foster children and at-risk youth in San Diego.

“I set a goal that I wanted to bake birthday cakes for foster kids this year,” the Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident said. “It was a very random goal.”

An internet search in January led Andreas to Cake4Kids, which was created in 2010 to provide free birthday cakes to children in crisis in the San Francisco Bay area.

“We did some research and found there weren’t any similar programs in the county but we found there was a very large population in need here,” she said. “There are 3,000 foster kids on average and we are ranked No. 6 in the nation for youth homelessness.”

Andreas began recruiting volunteers in April by posting fliers in coffee shops, contacting local businesses and advertising on social media. She also reached out to the San Diego Cake Cub.

Her new goal is to serve 10 percent of the foster care population in three years, but that will require more than 100 volunteer bakers, she said.

“We now have a little more than 60 volunteers, mostly from fliers, volunteersmatch.org or word-of-mouth through friends at the cake club,” she said. “We even had a person who rented a car and told a person at the car rental agency about Cake4Kids and that person talked to a friend who showed up at orientation.”

Volunteers must be 16 or older and are required to register on the organization’s website, clear a background check and then attend one of the monthly orientations held throughout the county.

“We do ask that people are somewhat proficient at baking and decorating,” said Andreas, who describes herself as a pretty average baker. “But there is no minimum commitment. They can bake as many or as few as they like.”

Requests come from children through one of seven partner agencies such as Casa de Amparo in Solana Beach and YMCA Youth and Family Services in Oceanside.

Bakers, who provide their own supplies and ingredients, then choose the specific cake request and delivery location and date.

“We understand a lot of times foster kids in care have never had a cake of their own,” Andreas said. “In one case it was a 12-year-old boy. So he cried and the staff that supports him cried.

“This provides a special bonding moment for case workers and the kids,” she added. “For the bakers, it allows them to combine a hobby with serving a populating they really care about. So it’s a win-win.”

Solana Beach resident Chloe Dugger said she volunteered because she enjoys decorating cakes and being involved in the community.

“I was intrigued by the concept of providing cakes, cupcakes and baked goods to people who appreciate being recognized on their birthdays or special events,” she said. “I like the Cake4Kids program because it allows foster kids and at-risk youth to feel valued and celebrated.

“I love that the program provides cakes and cupcakes to people who may have never gotten a treat on their birthday before,” Dugger added. “It’s a great tool to connect you to the community and feel like you are making a positive impact.

“My most memorable delivery was probably my first one,” she added. “I was a little nervous as I was delivering the cake, but the woman I gave it to was so excited and happy, my nervousness went away.

“She told me how much she loves getting cakes from Cake4Kids because she knows how much the kids appreciate them,” Dugger said. “She was just so generous and thankful, which helped me to get even more excited about making more cakes.”

Andreas, an IT project manager and a mother of a 10-year-old, said she has no history with the foster care system.

“I’ve just always had a soft spot for foster kids and underprivileged youth and wanted to do something like this this year,” she said. “I had a very fortunate upbringing and I think all kids should have a good start. I think birthdays are a special occasion and they should be celebrated.”

Visit cake4kids.org for more information.

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