Bakers band together to donate 5,000 Christmas goodies to abuse victims

Edmonton bakers are being asked to make the holiday season a bit more festive for mothers, children and care workers at a shelter for domestic abuse victims.

Wings of Providence accepting pledges of baked goods for shelter's Christmas party

The organizers behind Bake-A-Batch for Wings of Providence hope to donate nearly 5,000 treats to victims of domestic abuse this year. (Bake-A-Batch)

Edmonton bakers are being asked to make the holiday season a bit more festive for mothers, children and care workers at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

Wings of Providence is a shelter and affordable housing complex that provides housing, resources and assistance to women and children who have fled violent homes and are trying to restart their lives. Many arrive at the shelter in their clothes and nothing else.

Each year, the shelter holds a Christmas party for its residents, serving thousands of homemade baked goods and treats made and donated by mainly one woman: Tracy Wilson.

Wilson first heard of Wings of Providence through St. Andrew's Church 24 years ago.

"She heard that they were having some issues with their Christmas party. They needed baking, and she thought, 'I like to bake; I can do this. I've got the time, I've got the ability,' and she took on the gig," said Wilson's sister Elaine Wilson, a cooking teacher and chef.

That first year, Tracy made about 200 dozen treats for the shelter. The next year, she signed up again. 

Each year, she started collecting ingredients in early November, using a spreadsheet to track everything required for each of her recipes and firing up her oven each weekend to make a few batches.

Once baked, all the goodies went into her freezer to await delivery day. In mid-December, she dropped it all off at the shelter.

"Literally, she cooks, bakes, makes, packages and delivers 200-plus dozen every year for 24 years," Elaine said. "It was her own personal connection. She felt empathy with the women and the children; she felt empathy with the holiday and she said, 'I can do this.' "

Group asks Edmontonians to open ovens

Fast forward 24 years, and Wilson's still at it, still making about 2,500 baked goods a year. She also gets some help from her sister and a few friends who have stepped in to help when Tracy's knee and back problems made it hard for her to do the work on her own.

"But this year her legs and back said, 'I need some help.' So she said, 'Can you get some more friends?' " Elaine said.

Elaine Wilson holds up two examples of the frozen treats currently being accepted by Bake-a-Batch for Wings of Providence. (CBC)
The shelter is also facing growing demand since opening a second affordable-housing building, doubling the number of treats needed. 

Facing a goal of 400 dozen cookies, the small group of bakers decided to open up the campaign to bakers across the city this year, and thus Bake-a-Batch for Wings of Providence was born. 

"There are so many people that bake, and all we're asking is bake a couple more dozen and donate them to Wings."

How to help

Anyone interested in contributing treats to the shelter can sign up online. So far, the group has received pledges for 140 dozen treats from strangers, Elaine said. More is expected.

The group will hold a couple of open houses in December at which people can deliver their frozen baked treats. From there, Tracy will collect the goods and deliver them to the shelter. 

Due to security and privacy concerns, access to the shelter and its events is highly restricted. In 24 years, even Tracy has never been to the Christmas party to see the treats handed out, but that doesn't matter to her, Elaine said.

What matters is knowing her efforts make a difference, and that she is able to bring a little joy to people typically forlorn during the holidays.

"In a second-stage (shelter), in particular, Christmas can have a lot of anxiety, fear surrounding it. So by being able to create a party with home baking helps them to create new memories and new associations at that time of year."


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