Brianna Smith has given herself the nickname ‘The Ninja Baker.’ She keeps a list of her friends and their favorite desserts and any time she bakes extra cupcakes or cheesecake, she will surprise them by turning up with a special treat for them. Brianna is also a volunteer at Jubilee, and a few times each month will drop off customized birthday desserts for our residents. Brianna was introduced to Jubilee four years ago, and soon after she signed up as a volunteer she pitched the idea of baking for the residents. She has been our resident baker ever since.
“I love baking,” she said. “It’s my passion. It’s something I’ve always done, and I love how it’s pure happiness in a really simple form.”
When residents come to Jubilee they fill out a short survey that asks when their birthday is, what their favorite dessert is, and details such as their favorite color. Brianna will then bake a customized birthday treat and deliver it on the birthday of the resident. Brianna said she likes the element of surprise. She thinks some of the residents know about her but others are surprised as they don’t always remember filling out the intake paperwork.
“I was sitting next to a resident at the Volunteer Appreciation Party,” Brianna said, “and when she found out I was the baking lady, she told me how amazed she was that they knew her favorite dessert, and it was in a box that was her favorite color, having completely forgotten it was her that told me all of that information.” Brianna also has baked for staff events and special occasions, including a recent farewell lunch for two temporary staff members.
A year after Brianna started baking for the Jubilee residents she started another project-creating a recipe collection for volunteer groups that prepare community meals at Jubilee. She recognized it can be hard to come up with a meal plan for a large group and that many volunteers end up cooking the same dishes. Brianna has created a recipe booklet where each recipe is customized for 30 people and incorporates seasonal produce. This makes the task of cooking for so many feel less daunting for volunteers and gives them ideas that are nutritious but not too complicated.
I asked Brianna what she loves most about volunteering. “I like the idea of the random happiness thing, she replied. “I know I could do something that is related to my job, but there are a lot of people with those skills. I believe when you do something that makes you happy, that kind of passes through. I think people feel that.
Brianna said that she really tries to make each resident’s favorite dessert. She has made everything from Rice Krispie treats to kheer, a type of Indian rice pudding. “I really like knowing that’s how I would feel if someone surprised me with a birthday dessert that was all for me, said Brianna. “I think when you’re going through tough stuff it’s the tiny, little things that keep you going, at least that’s how it was for me.”
Brianna, thank you for all you do to help our residents feel special and cared for on their birthdays and the support you have shown our volunteers with the recipe booklet. We appreciate you so much!