My best friend Eleanor, my sister Jillian, and I love baking and we wanted to sell our pastries. We knew that we wouldn’t make a lot of money just selling the treats, so Eleanor came up with the idea that whatever money we made, we should donate to the victims of Hurricane Irma that had recently wiped out Puerto Rico. The bake sale was a success! In the end, we raised 101 dollars. We donated the money to the American Red Cross, specifically for the victims of Hurricane Irma. We were ecstatic. That was the first layer of the cake, the inspiration toward creating our non-profit organization: Baking For a Cause.
After giving to the causes for Puerto Rico, we wanted to help again. We wanted to do more. We all started learning about climate change; it devastated us. The thought that we were killing ourselves and Earth was awful. I was thinking about our first bake sale, and I thought that we should donate all the money we made to charities that help climate change. I knew that people loved sweets, and just buying the pastries from our bake sale would not only make them happy, it would also make them feel good that they were able to help. Enter: Baking for a Cause.
Not only did we want to donate our bake sale money towards climate change organizations, we could also be eco-friendly while baking. We keep in mind what materials we can avoid using, like paper (so we don’t chop down trees) and plastic that can release harmful chemicals into our air. We also look to see if we have ingredients before buying to avoid food waste. We’ve been doing this for a little under a year and some of the charities we’ve donated to so far are GreenPeace, the Australian Red Cross (for the wildfires in Australia), and the American Red Cross. Each of these organizations have something they can do to help our planet.
It was very cool to figure out how to bake while being eco-friendly and we couldn't wait to start selling the treats. But I didn’t think people would actually buy our pastries. I used to think people were lazy and they didn't want to do anything to help the Earth. Now that I’ve done some bake sales, I do believe that people want to help. I notice they help more when it’s just as simple as donating to a charity or buying something for themselves like a pastry. It was inspiring to see that people actually did care. For example, we were doing a bake sale outside of a supermarket right by a bus stop. When a bus came, and everyone walked out, the bus driver noticed what we were doing. He beckoned us over and donated a dollar for our cause without even buying a treat. More recently, when we had a bake sale, a delivery man walked by and I asked him if he wanted to donate to help stop climate change. We didn’t expect him to because he was working but he still gave us one dollar anyway. We were so happy. It was one more dollar to go towards saving our Earth. After all, it takes care of us, we should do the same in return. These are my favorite moments because these people don’t have to donate, but they still care enough to give the planet a moment of their time. These moments are special, but the actual baking is even better.
I do not view my volunteer work for Baking for a Cause, or any work for climate change as a chore. I really love baking. When we bake, we get to spend time together, connect, and catch up. Some may think volunteering is just sitting around waiting for something to happen (like I did). I remember seeing Salvation Army workers just sitting there looking bored. However, you can always mold something you like into volunteer work. When I think of baking or cooking, or just anything I like to do, you can incorporate that into some way of raising money, or volunteer work. Since I find baking very fun, everything I do that includes it is fun too. I’m sure it’s like that with most activities. A lot of people enjoy video games. You could raise money by competing against someone on the Nintendo Switch, and charge one or two dollars a game. You could create a TikTok account for your cause and make videos with random people, or with yourself, or with strangers. The videos don’t even have to be about your cause, you can just give all the money you make off of your account to your charity.
We are always learning new recipes and ways to improve the recipes we have. Some ways we improve our baking is by learning all the little tricks that go into it. For instance, you should always soften the butter before mixing. It is so hard to mix if it is not softened! I also learned to taste the frosting before you put vanilla extract in it because it may not need it. My last tip, and learned this the hard way, is to work very slowly with confectioners sugar, it's very messy.
Even though baking is a very messy process, the presentation can’t end up being messy. We make more money when the pastries are colorful and presentable. This makes baking a creative process because of the many different aspects to it. For example there are so many colors to choose from. And shapes! You could shape your cake into a star, a square, even SpongeBob. Anything really. To make it taste good, you need to put the right amount of sugar, flour, milk, vanilla extract, and baking powder; all of that matters.
Baking For a Cause has changed my life. It helped me be more aware of my surroundings and bond more with my friends. It has brought me more joy because I get to do what I love while helping the Earth. It is possible to contribute to your charity while doing what you love.
Lyla Rae Cheary, 13 years old, currently lives in New York City and attends middle school at East Community High. In her free time, Lyla loves to read, write poetry, bake, and after many years of persistently asking her parents to get her a dog, finally got one.
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