A Slice of Hospitality

Boise-Based Community Cakes Provides Birthday Surprises to Those Who May Not Otherwise Receive One

Jim Temple is a retired World War II Navy veteran who just celebrated his 90th birthday at Overland Court Senior Living and Memory Care in Boise.

Kathy Whipple is a medical assistant at Intermountain Pediatric Clinic who really, really likes to bake.

They’re not related. Born decades apart, they don’t share the same social circles. In fact, the two had never met.

But Community Cakes, a Boise-based nonprofit that provides birthday cakes to people in the Treasure Valley who might not otherwise receive one, brought them together.

The nonprofit has 80 to 90 volunteers, including Whipple, baking cakes at any given time. Community Cakes works with 12 community partners, from retirement homes to the Idaho Youth Ranch, to ensure everyone — young or old — knows someone is thinking of them on their birthday, says Hadley Goff, the secretary of the organization.

In 2015 alone, Community Cakes provided 566 people with a birthday cake — nearly 100 more than the nonprofit made a year earlier. Cakes were provided to the Idaho Veterans Home, the Women’s and Children’s Alliance and the Good Samaritan Home, among many other partners.

“I’ve learned so many people don’t have families and so people don’t celebrate them on their birthdays,” Goff says. “Growing up, birthdays were huge in my family. We didn’t do anything elaborate, but it was a big deal for us. It was the thought that counts with the birthday cake. It was a special cake just for me with my name on it, so I’m so happy to give that back to someone else and make them feel more special, more celebrated on their birthday.”

Volunteers donate the baking supplies, time to bake the actual cakes and gasoline to deliver the cakes, Goff says. Others who don’t have the time to bake can donate to the nonprofit to help purchase supplies for those who do.

Some partners, such as Overland Court, host fundraisers for Community Cakes as a way to say thank you for all of the cakes it has provided since the nonprofit got its start in 2011.

Volunteer bakers are asked to submit an application and attend a monthly orientation meeting to get started. After that, a Community Cakes ambassador will come to the new volunteer’s home to do a 30-minute site visit to go over safe and healthy baking practices, give instructions on how to log in to the Community Cakes website and answer any other questions the volunteer may have.

Whipple said it’s the perfect opportunity to volunteer with a local group because she can sign up for as many or as little deliveries as she wants each month, and it’s something that reminds her of growing up with her own family. She uses recipes and tips her grandmother fine tuned in Georgia in the 1940s, Whipple said, including using all ingredients only after they’ve reached room temperature.

To make Temple feel special on his 90th birthday, Whipple made a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling. The frosting on the cake was red, white and blue to recognize Temple’s two years of service and sacrifice to the United States while it was at war.

Keren Dehart, Overland Court’s senior vibrant life director, said her residents look forward to celebrating each other on their special day thanks to Community Cakes.

“They bring a lot of light into the lives of people who don’t really get to celebrate their birthday like they should,” Dehart said.

To people like Temple, it’s an unexpected gift that should be treasured.

He said he was excited to share his cake with a former neighbor that was coming to see him at the retirement home along with his wife of 62 years, Norene, who also lives at Overland Court.

“I didn’t even know they were going to do that,” he said. “I can’t believe they would make something like this for me, a stranger.”

For information on how to donate to Community Cakes or how to become a volunteer baker, go to CommunityCakes.com or call 208.450.3672.