Middle-schooler bakes sweet treats to help women and children in domestic crisis

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After the pandemic started and the cabin fever set in, people resorted to all sorts of things to beat the boredom of life in lockdown – home projects, exercising and exploring nature. Amalia Deans began baking.

Baking was a balm for the 12-year-old Westampton girl, who loves science and math. “Baking involves a lot of trial and error,” just like science and math, she said. “It’s a straightforward, right-or-wrong thing. There are no opinions and nothing to debate about it. I really love the science of it, and how all the ingredients come together.”

Amalia’s mother Julie loved that her daughter shared her passion for the kitchen. After giving goodies away to neighbors and friends, Amalia figured: Why not sell her treats and donate her earnings to a good cause?

Supporting women the goal

In honor of Women’s History Month, she decided to pick a cause that supports women. Linda Hynes, a family friend, Burlington County Commissioner and a personal role model for Amalia, suggested Catholic Charities’ Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Burlington County. Providence House provides free, confidential, specialized counseling, a safe house, a 24/7 hotline and legal advocacy to women and children in domestic crisis. So just before St. Patrick’s Day, she baked 28 loaves of Irish soda bread and made 18 dozen Irish potatoes (her grandmother’s recipe, pictured below). The baking blitz helped her raise $200 for Providence House.

“I hope my donation will make women feel supported and know that people are willing to help them, and that people can do good things for them,” said Amalia, a seventh grader at Westampton Middle School.

Indeed, Providence House relies on the generosity of supporters like Amalia to help women and children heal, said Mary Pettrow, Catholic Charities’ Director of Children and Family Services. 

“Because our services are free, every financial donation we receive has great impact – especially since the need for our services has risen a lot during the pandemic,” Pettrow said. “Amalia’s support is especially appreciated, when young women like her display such compassion and generosity for our clients. She is helping us make our communities safer for future generations to come and is truly a light in trying times.”

A charitable childhood

The donation wasn’t Amalia’s first foray into philanthropy. Since first grade, she has raised money to support a local zoo and animal hospital by running a lemonade stand every year. (One of her favorite women, speaking of Women’s History Month, is primatologist Jane Goodall, with whom she shares a birthday.)

But baking has so enthralled her that she’s now thinking of a culinary career. Her specialty is chocolate cake, and she has become her family’s official baker, in charge of desserts for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. She hopes to master macarons, a notoriously tough-to-make French treat. 

Like baking itself, the business of selling her treats offered trial-and-error lessons. Next time, she’ll skip the Irish potatoes. “It’s such a soft dough, and it would melt and get sticky, so I was washing my hands all the time,” she said. “And rolling 18 dozen Irish potatoes over a Saturday and Sunday is very hard and mind-numbing work.”

But she definitely wants to do more charitable work. That makes her parents proud.

“My husband and I always try to teach our kids, when you have enough, you share with others. That was something I was taught as a child, and something I want to instill in my kids,” Julie Deans said. “We are so super-proud of her – not only is she giving back to the community, but she’s also in honors classes and student council at school, she dances, she plays softball and the flute. She just juggles so much and does it well.”

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FOR INFORMATION about Catholic Charities’ Providence House Domestic Violence Services, call (609) 871-7551 in Burlington County or (732) 244-8259 in Ocean County. For information about Catholic Charities, contact Dana DiFilippo, communications, at ddifilippo@cctrenton.org or (215) 756-6277.

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