Baking is a hobby of mine. I love to find and try recipes for cakes, cookies and other desserts. Today’s organization turned baking into a way to give back and help others.
Alison Bushman, a stay-at-home mom, and her 7 year old twin daughters, Amy and Emma had a desire to do something more for the homeless family shelter where they had volunteered together for three years. They had begun volunteering with the shelter by collecting items at the twins’ birthday party each year. Instead of gifts, the girls asked for items such as books, infant toys, and snacks for those staying at the local homeless family shelter. When they delivered the donations, they also prepared a homemade pancake breakfast for the families. The girls’ favorite part was always staying to play with the other kids at the shelter after breakfast.
After watching Teen Kids News coverage of the Young Entrepreneurs Convention, Emma asked if kids could really start their own business. Amy’s love of cooking took the girls to “Camp Cuisine” where they learned about food as gifts and brought home their own mason jar of cookie mix. Meanwhile, their mom was inspired by stories of wonderful philanthropic projects at a YA Connect Conference, but was not sure who would watch her kids if she was building houses in Mexico. That is when the idea hit. A simple jar of cookie mix for families leaving the shelter was a great way to give other mothers and children the experience of baking together that they loved so much. After a lot of hard work and taste testing, Alison, Amy and Emma perfected their original Bake Me Home Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, applied for tax-exempt status with the IRS, and established the Bake Me Home organization in 2008.
Bake Me Home is dedicated to promoting volunteerism and providing disadvantaged moms and kids with direct services that encourage shared family experiences. They are based in Cincinnati, Ohio and depend on over 200 volunteers to help run their organization. In February they moved into their own building after working out of a storage unit and their family home for almost five years.
They have four programs:
- The Tote Bag Program helps families leaving shelters celebrate the beginning of a new life in a new home. Each sturdy tote bag contains a jar of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie mix, a mixing bowl, spoon, cookie sheet, pot holder, spatula, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a $20 gift card to a grocery store for the essential butter, eggs, and a few other groceries. This program helps over 350 families per year from 14 agencies.
- The Family Portrait Program provides 5×7 framed portraits to shelter families. This program started when photographer Annette Bryant wanted to do something for those who could not afford photos of their kids. Over 400 families have received portraits with this program!
- The Bake Me BACK Home Program sends two dozen homemade cookies to members of the military for a donation of $30. Approximately half of each donation supports their Tote Bag and Family Portrait Programs. Over 6,000 cookies have been sent to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Bake It Forward Program allows children entering grades 2 through 9 an opportunity to apply for a grant of $100 for the charity of their choice serving children in Ohio. Each applicant must perform a summer service project for the charity which helps further the Bake Me Home organization’s mission of promoting volunteerism.
Alison shared a couple quotes about their impact on the families they have helped. One mother of four, after receiving a family portrait from Bake Me Home at a battered women’s shelter cried and said, “Thank you for this. A picture is worth a thousand words. I will always look at this and remember our turning point. I am free.” Another mother, after baking her cookies, said, “We made our cookies! It was wonderful! It made me feel like I accomplished something. We had everything we needed. I’ve used the pan lots of times for other things too.”
How can you help?
Bake Me Home has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities.
- Help fill jars of their homemade cookie mix and tote bags. Assembly events are posted on Facebook and sent out via e-mail. You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing email@example.com.
- You can volunteer to deliver Tote Bags to agencies. You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Knit, crochet, or quilt pot holders to include in their tote bags. You can find a free pattern here.
- Donate new or gently used 5×7 photo frames for the Family Portrait Program.
- Volunteers are also needed to assist with the Family Portrait photo shoots. You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing email@example.com.
- Bake Me Home also holds an annual silent auction and accepts donated items.
- They also need volunteers to assist with various administrative, fundraising, and graphic design projects. Please contact them with your specific expertise.
- They also accept monetary donations on their website.