By Sam Lurie and Sam Drysdale
What began as a simple act of kindness by a 16-year-old girl has transformed into a dedicated nonprofit, helping individuals and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across America.
In March, Scarsdale High School sophomore Brianna Subin began baking cookies to thank local first responders for their work amidst the pandemic. It wasn’t long before the operation expanded to provide lunches for firefighters, ambulance workers, police officers, and pharmacies in the Westchester town.
Photos courtesy of the Subin Family
Brianna and her family then came together to help others in need: The Subins were soon collecting gift cards, clothing, and toys for families who had been hit hard by the pandemic, and Bake Back America was officially born.
“It’s really about showing appreciation and thanks to people, and having communities come together,” Brianna’s mother, Melissa, says.
As the founder, Brianna has a wide list of responsibilities such as website design, baking coordination, and social media management, but Bake Back America has become a full family affair: Her mother, Melissa Subin, has been incredibly involved in launching and running the organization; Brianna’s sister, Melanie, runs fulfillment and sponsorship; her father, Herb, handles the financials; and her 13-year-old brother, Benji, manages merchandising, baking, and website development.
Over the past few months the organization has expanded its work into new initiatives. In addition to baking, the Subins looked for ways to provide meals for people in need across the country: anyone can order a meal through Bake Back America to a recipient of their choice, such as a hospital or family. The Scarsdale organization will order and get the restaurant to deliver or “do all the leg work,” themselves, according to Melissa. This initiative has touched almost the entire nation, with orders coming from upwards of 45 states.
The family has also partnered with donors such as ICNA Relief and AAOHA to deliver over 25,000 meals and has donated to food pantries, in one case helping over 700 people in need by serving 2,000 meals and giving away 7,500 pounds of produce along with 500 face masks.
The organization also offers a Grant a Wish(list) program, where individuals and families can submit requests for anything they need and cannot get. Melissa says they often receive requests for lamps, fans, and clothes, and have sent more than 500 bags full of these resources in the past few weeks. The program is soon to open up to college students in need of school supplies. In addition, they are providing toiletries such as towels and soap to more than 60 people experiencing homelessness.
Other programs include tutoring and Zoom story time, where Brianna and other volunteers read to children in shelters. Bake Back America has also partnered with national nonprofit Medical Needs for Diabetic Children to open its first division in New York State.
In addition to adding new programs, Bake Back America has added new members to the Subin family operation. The organization is now contributed to by a few dozen teammates. According to Melissa, they are all taken in as part of the family.
“I don’t consider my immediate family my only family in this, I consider everyone that’s volunteering and everyone that’s involved in the community as family,” she says.
Though Bake Back America was created in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Subin family plans to continue their work even once conditions improve. They recently began a new program called “Family to Family,” where people can stay involved on a yearly basis, connected to another family.
The Subins hope to inspire others to bring their communities together.
“This concept of acts of kindness has always been around,” Melissa said. “Now it’s more prevalent than ever, and this will not stop.”