By Natalie Conway
For students at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, Oregon, a mutual love of baking turned into a way to spread joy to people going through a difficult time. The Baked with Care Club started when eighth-grade math teacher, Jennifer Swartz, wanted to find a way to connect with students while having to teach remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought this would create the teacher-student bond that is so important,” said Swartz. “Plus I love to bake!”
Each week, the students of the Baked with Care Club volunteer to make delicous homemade baked goods. They donate their cookies, cakes, and other sweets to Blanchet House of Hospitality, where hundreds of free meal guests can enjoy them.
“I love baking, and I bake a lot in my spare time,” said seventh-grader Samyata Sharma. “Once I read about the club, I decided that I should spread a little happiness.”
It’s easy to feel disconnected from others while learning remotely, but baking is a point of connection for students and teachers alike. While the club started in Swartz’s eighth-grade math class, it has expanded as students from other grades and classes have expressed interest in joining.
Swartz was already familiar with Blanchet House’s services to the community before she became coordinator of the Baked with Care Club.
“Last spring I made lunch sacks for Blanchet House with my family and started following their Facebook page,” she said. After seeing posts about supporters dropping off homemade baked goods, Swartz was inspired to do the same.
The students volunteer their time each week to bake their favorite desserts, and share pictures of what they made over Zoom. Swartz then collects the students’ baking to donate to Blanchet House.
The Baked with Care Club offers students a chance to do something they love while giving back.
“It made me happy to be able to use my hobby to help people,” said eighth-grader Pragya Saxena. The club’s donated baked goods are distributed to many guests experiencing homelessness or food insecurity who come to dine at one of Blanchet House’s daily meals.
“Due to the Coronavirus, many people are in harsh situations,” said student Mahika Bhan. “Why not try to help by donating baked goods?” The COVID-19 crisis has compounded the stressors that many Blanchet meal guests experience, but the Baked with Care Club’s frequent contributions help to support Blanchet’s services in these difficult times.
Swartz estimates that the club has donated more than 15 dozen baked goods so far. The club continues to grow as more volunteers join, and each week the students are baking more.
“I know that giving hand-baked treats will brighten someone’s mood and make them feel better and happy,” said eighth-grader Dhanya Sriram. “When my friends give me hand-baked treats, I feel really happy and warm inside.”
If you’re interested in donating baked goods to Blanchet House’s guests learn more at www.BlanchetHouse.org/Food-Rescue.