DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - "Can I bake something?" has become a sort of catchphrase for Hannah Barberg.
The 10-year-old Detroit Lakes girl asks that question a lot around her house. Her family is used to it. Her two young brothers even roll their eyes at it sometimes.
But they never get in the way of Hannah and the oven. Baking is her passion, and she does as much of it as possible.
"I like seeing everything come together - the flour and sugar and (other ingredients)," she says. "And it makes something awesome!"
Hannah has been making awesome things happen outside the kitchen, too. She's taken her love of baking, mixed it with her desire to make a difference, and cooked up a way to help some of the world's most vulnerable kids.
Last year, she started a charitable bakery stand called Hannah's Sweets, and through that she's raised money for abandoned, neglected and abused children in the Philippines. She just finished up her second annual bake sale at the stand, and she believes she'll once again be serving up a heaping donation for her cause.
Offering a mouthwatering menu of brownies, lemon bars, assorted muffins, rosemary onion focaccia bread, Swedish Almond Rusks and more, Hannah's bakery stand was set up outside the Barberg home on Lori Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 9 a.m. to noon. With a well-decorated table full of treats to tempt hungry passers-by, Hannah's Sweets sold goodies in the style of an old-fashioned lemonade stand, with Hannah perched on a stool behind the table.
In a modern twist, she had taken preorders on Facebook, plus auctioned off pies, tarts and a cake on the social media site as an additional way to raise funds.
"Hannah's pies are better than any other pies I've had in my life, and my grandma makes some good pies," said Beau Shroyer, a customer of Hannah's, as he picked up his preorder on Thursday. "They're so good."
Preparation for Hannah's big sale day was no small deal. She baked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. the day before, almost nonstop, in order to make everything she needed. And that was on top of other prep work she had done in days prior to that.
From the planning to the baking, she did most everything herself. Her mom, Jen, helped by covering the finished foods in plastic wrap before the sale, and her brothers acted as cashiers and deliverers that day, but otherwise the effort was entirely Hannah's.
"I'm not allowed to help bake," Jen laughed. "She's the one that's got a passion for it. I'm not a baker. This is her thing - she's the driving force."
Hannah first developed a taste for baking when she was just 3 years old. She liked being in the kitchen, watching and helping as her grandma and aunts made Swedish thin bread and other treats. Her skills and interest in it only grew over time, and for the past few years now she's been baking on her own every chance she gets.
She loves it, but doesn't really do it for herself. She'll try a bite or two of whatever she makes, but the rest is reserved for everybody else. Hannah likes to share her creations, and does so often. She's brought goodies to school for her friends and teachers at Rossman Elementary, and her family gets to sample new recipes all the time.
"She likes to watch everybody eat her stuff more than she likes to eat it herself," said Jen.
All proceeds from Hannah's Sweets go to the Children's Shelter of Cebu, a Christian nonprofit that operates four homes for children in need, especially disabled children, in Cebu City, Philippines. The Children's Shelter provides its residents with food, shelter, medicine, schooling, adoption services, counseling and other vital resources.
Hannah heard of the organization through her mom, who has ties to it through her old college roommate. The whole Barberg family has been supportive of the charity over the years, so when Hannah decided to have a fundraiser, the Children's Shelter was the first thing to come to her mind. She held her first bake sale for the shelter last fall, and raised enough to sponsor an entire day of school for the roughly 100 kids there, plus a full month's worth of schooling for one student.
The experience was rewarding for Hannah: after sending in her donation, she got a 'thank you' letter and pictures back from the Children's Shelter, and she says, "It was just really, really cool to see the kids that I helped. I just want to keep doing it."
Hannah plans to continue to bake frequently, and wants to hold another charitable sale again next year. Hannah's Sweets, she says, will be back for a third helping.
"It's a lot of work, but she loves it," Jen said of her daughter's baking and fundraising efforts. "Last year, the best part was watching her when we sent in the check (to the Children's Shelter), and having her see that she can make a difference, even at 10."