Shuswap baker Crystal Hedlund has been helping those less fortunate since the pandemic began, and this holiday season is no different.
Hedlund is known throughout the Okanagan-Shuswap for baking wedding and birthday cakes for people who can’t afford them, donating them for free and often sponsoring the celebrations, asking the public and her social media community for monetary donations and gifts. People donate and cover costs for the cake supplies, gas for delivery and Hedlund’s time. In March of 2020, she baked bread and treats in her free time to donate to people who were out of work and struggling.
Since moving to Canoe from Vernon, Hedlund has not yet opened her own brick-and-mortar bakery as costs and overhead are still out of reach. She works out of her home as Crystal’s Baked Blessings, baking to fulfill personal orders from around the region.
As the holidays neared in 2020, Hedlund felt called to do more than bake goods in her spare time and donate the lunches she had been distributing throughout Vernon. Families had reached out on social media asking about the possibility of Christmas hampers, so Hedlund asked her community on her pages if they were willing to step up their sponsorships. The answer was a resounding yes.
“There was a tidal wave of people wanting to help,” said Hedlund.
2020 was her first year of collecting and delivering hampers, which include a full Christmas dinner as well as gifts for the whole family. Hedlund said that after delivering to a Romanian family new to Canada, a widowed father and his twin daughters, she cried for three days about their story. The community had bought the family a new freezer filled with food, tablets and gaming systems for the girls and new clothes. As the two truckloads backed into their driveway and Hedlund saw the reactions on the faces of the family, she knew she wasn’t going to stop.
Crystal’s Baked Blessings helped seven families in 2020. In 2021, she was unable to gather the full hamper donations as she and her family were moving around the holidays, but she baked 10 gift baskets full of assorted goods and gave those out to people in need.
This year, she was only going to sponsor three families but upped the amount after receiving overwhelming community support and requests from four smaller families. Each family this year is covered for the gifts they asked for, but she still needs some food donations to cover their Christmas dinners.
One of the in-need families is a mother and son living in a motor home with no heat. Funds may be redirected from their Christmas gifts to find them heated housing for the winter months, and Hedlund is asking the community for additional donations to this end.
“Even a couple nights in a hotel over Christmas holidays… Nobody should have to live in a cold RV in these temperatures, especially with a child,” said Hedlund.
An updated description of the families and a list of what is still needed is available on Crystal’s Baked Blessings Facebook page.
If people want to donate, even when her planned hampers are filled, Hedlund takes extra funds and buys gift cards for the families as a bonus.
“Somewhere like Walmart, where you can get everything you need, or gift cards for a movie night out with the family, whatever I think they’d like or need,” said Hedlund of the gift cards.
Donors can send etransfers to firstname.lastname@example.org, or message the business’ Facebook account to arrange drop-off of purchased food or gifts.