Sweet Blessings volunteers

Sweet Blessings volunteers Candy Simms, Kelly Karls and Claire Scott work to create decorations for a cake. Photo by Jelyn Washington-Mays |Staff

Nestled between the main entrance of Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church and the church playground rests the headquarters for one of Lexington’s sweetest treats, Sweet Blessings Cakes.

The name sounds like an idyllic Kentucky bakery filled with bourbon country charm. That is not Sweet Blessings. Instead, it is a charity that bakes birthday cakes for children who are living in poverty, have a life-threatening illness or have special needs.

Since 2011, Sweet Blessings Cakes has provided nearly 12,000 children with birthday cakes at no cost to their caregivers. These are birthday gifts they otherwise may not have had. In the organization’s first year, it made 163 cakes. That number grew to 2,600 just for 2018 alone, fulfilling the vision stated on their website of providing “a happy birthday for all children.”

Ashley Gann, the founder and executive director of the charity, strayed away from getting her doctorate in public health because she said God told her she was going to make cakes.

“It took several years to figure out what that meant and I really felt that God was telling me that I needed to spend more time making a difference and less time making a living,” Gann said. “The pastor one Sunday was talking about inner-city outreach in downtown Lexington, and that’s when it all clicked for me that I was supposed to use cake to reach out to children and families.”

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Cake baked and decorated by Sweet Blessings. Sweet Blessings is a charity that bakes birthday cakes for children who are living in poverty, have a life-threatening illness or have special needs. Photo by Jelyn Washington-Mays | Staff

The charity’s mission statement is “to convey Christ’s love for His children by creating unforgettable birthday cakes for children living in poverty, with special needs or experiencing a life-threatening illness.”

Tiffany Rice is a three-year volunteer with Sweet Blessings and has experience with kids of similar backgrounds. She has previously worked as a student teacher with inner-city children and said that most of these kids are worried about where their meals are going to come from.

“I think it’s really neat and it’s something that a lot of kids would never expect,” Rice said about Sweet Blessings’ mission.

Kids’ stories range from those who recently lost a parent to kids who live in halfway houses with their parents. Sweet Blessings volunteers aim to brighten these kids’ birthdays by providing them with personalized cakes tailored specifically for each child’s interests. By keeping the child in mind during the decorating process, the charity stays true to its mission statement.

On Mondays, volunteers spend their time baking and decorating in Frankfort, while on Tuesdays they are at Maxwell St. Presbyterian Church and on Thursdays they are in Harrodsburg.

The charity’s main source of volunteers are college students. Some are volunteering with their organizations while other individuals just like to give their time of their own accord. Students who are interested in getting involved with Sweet Blessings can either reach out to the charity on its website sweetblessingscakes.org or show up to Maxwell St. Presbyterian on a Tuesday.

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Cake baked and decorated by Sweet Blessings. Sweet Blessings is a charity that bakes birthday cakes for children who are living in poverty, have a life-threatening illness or have special needs. Photo by Jelyn Washington-Mays | Staff

Claire Scott, a UK sophomore majoring in biology and chemistry, is one of those students.

“I got involved with Sweet Blessings through my service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega,” she said. “It’s fun decorating cakes, and you’re doing something good as well as getting to talk to other people.

Gann said Sweet Blessings "could not do what we do without UK students."

An upcoming event hosted by Sweet Blessings is its annual “The Great Cake Race” at Keeneland’s Keene Barn on May 5. The 5K race will provide free cupcakes for participants and prizes for placing racers. To sign up for the race, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/KY/Lexington/TheGreatCakeRace5K1M.

Other donations can be made to Sweet Blessings Cakes on its website.