In the last few years, business has slowed down tremendously for a group of women known as Special Occasion Treats. They have been baking various treats for Knox students for about 45 years.
Pat Lee is the chairman of what she nicknames “The Cake Project,”. She got involved with it shortly after she moved to Galesburg 25 years ago. Later on, she took over when it was about to be disbanded.
“It’s my baby,” Lee said.
Special Occasion Treats is an organization made up of the “Ladies of Mary” who belong to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
About 60 women are involved, with varying levels of participation depending on their availability. According to Lee, it had been founded over 45 years ago by two women who had started by only making birthday cakes. Since then, they’ve branched out to several other baked goods like cookies and brownies.
Since the organization’s foundation, a single letter would be sent out to the parents of students to let them know that this was available and that they can order treats for their children that were away from home. The intention is for parents to “send” their children homemade goods that would make them feel at home.
“This is something coming from a mom’s home. A mom’s kitchen,” Lee said.
Addresses of the parents used to be disclosed to the group for the purpose of their one yearly letter. That was the case up until a few years ago when the group stopped receiving the addresses. Now, the main source of awareness of The Cake Project comes from the Knox College website and word of mouth.
Lee has tried to deal with this change in various ways including going to freshman orientation to hand out forms to incoming students and bringing baked goods to Family and Friends weekend.
“I actually went once to what I thought was parents weekend, because somebody told me it was a certain weekend, and I had a whole bunch of baked stuff but it was the wrong weekend. So I was just giving out treats,” Lee said.
Business has gone down dramatically since letters stopped being sent. While Lee does not need things to be as busy as they once were, she does worry about the severe drop.
“We have been as busy as 240 orders in a year. Last year I had 50,” Lee said.
Lee misses the connection she previously had with students and parents from her organization’s service. She reminisces upon frantic parents calling about their child’s birthday and the same student throughout the year ordering her homemade fudge.
While struggling, the group of women are still fulfilling orders and hope to continue for many years to come.
“I just want people to know we’re out there still,” Lee said.