For 13-year-old Jessi Bellm, spending hours on end in the kitchen perfecting recipes and testing new desserts is no longer just a pastime — it’s a passion that has turned philanthropic.
On Monday, Aug. 5, the North Riverside teen is hosting her first charity bake sale at the North Riverside Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave., with proceeds benefitting No Kid Hungry, a Washington, D.C.- based nonprofit dedicated to ending child hunger in the U.S. and around the world.
Jessi, who has enjoyed serving up treats for friends and neighbors and participating in bake sales at Komarek School throughout the years, said she was inspired to launch her own bake sale after reading about No Kid Hungry and its national initiatives a few months ago.
“I read the Bake from Scratch magazine, and I saw that they had a special article about this partnership they do with No Kid Hungry, and they have their own bake sale on Aug. 3,” she said. “I really like baking, and I’ve always wanted to do a bake sale. I’ve just never done a full-scale one organized by me, so I thought it would be fun to try it. It’ll be going towards a good cause, so it’ll be worth a shot.”
According to Bellm’s parents, David and Heidi Bellm, Jessi has always had a desire to lend a hand as a volunteer.
“Since she was little, I’d take her volunteering with me for things that help kids,” Heidi Bellm said. “She’s frequently asking me, ‘Who can I bake for?'”
David Bellm added his daughter is always looking for ways to share her passions with others.
“She’s also in general a foodie, and so I think it’s a way of sharing what she loves and what she does for a greater good,” he said.
Deciding to host a bake sale was the easy part for Jessi. Next was deciding on the perfect place to hold the event.
With the help of her father, she approached Teresa Mrozik, the village’s director of parks and recreation, figuring the department’s summer camps, classes for adults and village’s busy offices would provide the heavy foot traffic needed for a bake sale.
Mrozik said the village was happy the Bellms approached them with the idea and jumped at the chance to serve as the event’s location.
“Encouraging and enabling our youth to do great things for other people is a no-brainer,” Mrozik said. “We can always use more good in the world, and when it can take place in your hometown, it’s even more special. The village departments are designed around service, so this is a natural fit. Knowing Jessi, we are positive that this will be a great success.”
To help Jessi with the planning, No Kid Hungry sent her a kit with tips for putting together a charity bake sale. Jessi also had to set a fundraising goal for the event, which she set at $250.
The sale, which will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Village Commons lobby, will feature dozens of baked goods — from cakes and brownies to cookies and pies — all homemade by Jessi and her network of neighbors and friends. Most goods will be sold in the $1-2 range, and each item will include a full list of ingredients used.
Jessi also hopes other locals with a knack for baking will donate their desserts toward the sale. Treats can be dropped off at the Village Commons the morning of the event between 8 a.m. and noon. All donated bakery must be delivered unwrapped and accompanied with a list of ingredients.
In addition to advertising the sale through the village, Jessi also wrote a letter, which was distributed to North Riverside residents by the town’s block captains.
She also has a website, sweetsbyjessi.com, where people can make online donations if they are unable to attend the bake sale.
Jessi hopes the inaugural bake sale is successful and will serve as a catalyst for future volunteer baking endeavors.
“I think it’s good experience for when I’m older and if I want to do something like this again when I have more resources,” she said. “I’ll know how it works and about what charities are good for the future.”