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Baking bridges: Sunnyvale mom builds nonprofit…

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By Alia Wilson | Bay Area News Group, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Mercury News

Taped to the inside cover of Libby Gruender’s notebook is a 2 inch-by-2 inch article clipping with a picture-perfect birthday cake and glowing candles that beg to be blown out. The Sunnyvale mother of two doesn’t remember which magazine she clipped it out of, but it goes wherever she goes. For her, it’s a symbol of hope–a child’s innocent wishes. It reminds her of what started it all.

The article was about a nonprofit group in Trenton, Ga., that bakes free birthday cakes for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

“The concept is so obvious and straightforward …I thought, ‘That would be great. I’m going to sign up,'” Gruender said. “There weren’t any here in the Bay Area. To think, as many people as we have here–three million people–and we didn’t have anyone who started something like that.”

Tired of working in the fast-paced, money-centric tech industry, Gruender decided it was time to do something with more meaning, something for someone else.

With her former co-worker who happened to be an excellent baker by her side, Gruender founded Cake4Kids, the first organization of its kind in the Bay Area.

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Baking bridges

A guitar-shaped cake complete with chocolate pickups, a turntable with fondant knobs and a princess tiara on top of a pillow of cake are just a few of the masterpieces created by the growing roster of Bay Area volunteers.

Since its inception in September 2010, Cake4Kids volunteers have made more than 40 cakes for foster children, at-risk youth and other kids in need.

It took a lot of pounding the pavement, emails and phone calls to build a volunteer base of 70 men and women, but Gruender said it came rather quickly after reaching out to fellow mothers, bakers and local nonprofit groups looking to partner with her organization.

“It was just the two of us at first, but by Dec. 2 we had maybe 20 volunteers and today we have about 70,” Gruender said. “It’s growing very, very fast and we’re tapping the mom network.”

With 9- and 12-year-old boys at Cherry Chase Elementary and Sunnyvale Middle schools, Gruender found reaching out to other mothers was a natural fit.

“It’s gone up through Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Cupertino–all these other school communities. It’s just spreading. A part of it is because a lot of these volunteers are moms and they have their own kids, so it kind of touches a chord with them to help a child. But also there are so many bakers who just love to bake and they need an outlet.”

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Gaze up at the emblematic golden dome that tops the roof of a historic building containing the region’s cultural gems.

The Old Capitol Museum offers an intriguing glimpse into the region’s artistic and cultural history. The exhibits are held in the University of Iowa’s Old Capitol building, whose dome is an iconic part of the college’s emblem. Learn about Iowa’s rich tradition of humanities and art in this extensive museum.

Relax on the lawn outside the building and snap photos of its imposing columns and pediment. At the structure’s summit is a charming cupola, which hoists the golden dome.

Browse the range of fascinating displays in the traveling exhibitions that pass through here. Make your way through the galleries for an insight into the museum’s various themes. The Hanson Humanities Gallery on the ground floor displays excavated tools and primitive works of art among other subjects.

Explore the Keyes Gallery for Arts, Humanities and Sciences for its array of temporary exhibits. Book in advance to arrange a free guided tour. Speak with the docents about the context behind the works and displays.

Climb to the second floor for the majestic Senate Chamber, where many public events, gatherings, music recitals and lectures take place. Continue up the reverse-spiral staircase to reach the second-floor rotunda, another grandiose space for traveling displays and events. The wooden Corinthian pillars that adorn this room are a rare example of the structure’s initial woodwork.

Note that free guided tours take place hourly. Admission is free to the museum, which opens from morning until late afternoon, Tuesday through Saturday. On Sundays, it opens in the afternoon.

The Old Capitol Museum is on the northwestern tip of the downtown area of Iowa City. It stands in the center of the University of Iowa campus. Visit other attractions in the district, including the Iowa Museum of Natural History, the Old Post Office and the Jacob Wentz House.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Stroll through this pleasant park with your family and visit the buildings that tell the story of a president’s upbringing.

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Iowa Museum of Natural History

Marvel at a gigantic whale skeleton, see an impressive cyclorama of a Hawaiian bird island and spot the giant panda.

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This project was supported by NIH NS075840, CEIRS NIH contract HHSN27220140006C, and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC).

Authors

S.S.: designed experiments, performed experiments, analyzed data, wrote the manuscript. B.S.: performed experiments, analyzed data. S.S.C.: designed experiments, analyzed data, wrote the manuscript. R.J.S.: designed experiments, performed experiments, analyzed data, wrote the manuscript.

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Richard Jay Smeyne .

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