Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cupcakes for Change

Remember that time I gushed about how much I love cupcakes? I had baked up some cupcakes for the Live Different Academy graduation and I pretty much went on for a solid paragraph about the epic awesomeness that are cupcakes. I then went on to mention how you shouldn’t get me started on MINI cupcakes…

Well...Sorry… (kinda)

Mini Cupcakes?! Unreal! The cuteness factor meter is through the roof when it comes to mini cupcakes. It’s all the best parts of a cupcake, but smaller, which makes it better. Compact cuteness, diminutive deliciousness, petite and pretty; It’s everything good in one—without making you feel guilty because you just ate a cupcake (even if their teensy size means you just ate six of them).

A new establishment opened in Hamilton called 541. It’s an Eatery & Exchange and it’s absolutely lovely. I know I use the word lovely a lot but when we look at the definition of lovely, there is no better word to describe how splendid this place is.

1.charmingly or exquisitely beautiful: a lovely flower.  
2.having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, as a person or a face.
3.delightful; highly pleasing: to have a lovely time. 
4.of a great moral or spiritual beauty: a lovely character.

In their own words, “We are an eatery; offering fresh, homemade meals and baked goods in the heart of Hamilton. We are a place of exchange; where ideas are shared and where people can engage with one another.”

If this concept of delicious meals and meaningful connections doesn’t convince you about how great of a place this is, let me tell you my favourite part...

541 has ‘buttons’
Allow me to explain. The area of Hamilton 541 chose to set up in was intentional. They went into a neighborhood that needed love and light, and set up with a purpose. While you are paying for your incredibly priced goods you are provided with the amazing opportunity to purchase a button from the 'Button Bank'. The purchased buttons then go into a separate 'Pay-It-Forward' jar where those who don’t have enough money can grab a button and use it towards the cost of their beverage or meal. 

This is phenomenal for a few reasons; the first being it’s such a tangible way to show love to those in your community that allows individuals to stay in their comfort zone. It’s a nice ‘introductory step’ to changing your community without getting really personal-- all you do is buy a button and put it into the jar. Second, it provides those who wouldn’t normally consider themselves welcome in a place so nice the warmest invitation to step inside and enjoy the hand-crafted café-standard beverages and belly-warming food, and gives them a sense of value  and respect. The value and respect which would come from being able to pay for a meal yourself, especially if it is something you are usually unable to do, is something I can’t even imagine. Too often we look at those who aren’t as well off as us through a lens that lacks the same respect we would give to someone who is doing better than us. Everyone deserves the same respect—especially when it comes to how we can serve and show care.

As an exchange, 541 recently hosted an art gallery evening. The public came out to an evening of delicious bite-sized eats, refreshments and viewing art created with a purpose. For this evening I contributed a last-minute batch of mini cupcakes. At the time my wonderful husband and I were living with another couple, and the lady of the unit is a talented photographer who took pictures of the evenings events. She snapped a few photos of the cupcakes in all their adorableness and I was happy to hear they were well received by those in attendance (I couldn’t attend as it was past my bedtime-- 2am wake up comes early!).

These cupcakes were from-scratch Funfetti, topped with decadent chocolate and vanilla swirl buttercream. I figured funfetti was the best option—first as we are celebrating such an extraordinary establishment, and second, why make people choose between chocolate and vanilla frosting? Give ‘em both!

I am so grateful for Meag’s willingness to take photos and her ability to capture their cuteness. I am grateful for 541 and how they are giving dignity and respect to those who need it most, and providing a tangible way for individuals to help their community. I am grateful for opportunities to use my skills to help others—even when that skill is baking cupcakes.

I encourage you to seek out the do-gooders of your community and help out in any way you can. Who knows, maybe your version of 541 is a few doors down just waiting for you to discover it, and I bet they could find use for your skills to make your community a better place.

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