Houston Bakers Band Together Again for Mental Health Awareness

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It's no secret that there are insufficient resources for mental health care in the United States. A local Houston baker decided to do something to help.

Last year, Jody Stevens of Jodycakes recruited professionals and talented home cooks alike to create desserts for a bake sale called The Depressed Cake Shop. But these were not traditional sweets for sale. All the cakes, cookies and pastries were frosted in gray or black and the funds raised went to The Montrose Center. The concept was originally conceived in the U. K. Since then, over 30 Depressed Cake Shop events have been held worldwide.

Thanks to the success of last year's event in Houston, The Depressed Cake Sale is happening again on Sunday, September 28 at Paulie's and Camerata at 1834 Westheimer from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Last year, the bake sale raised $4,600 for The Montrose Center. Participating professional bakers include not only Stevens, but others from Uchi, Phoenicia, Triniti, Hubbell & Hudson, The Corner Table, Brooklyn Athletic Club, Sweet, The Honeymoon and Common Bond. Independent professional bakers participating include Dory Fung.

In addition, restaurants and pastry chefs are donating raffle items and Deep Eddy will be serving up free cocktails (Greyhounds, of course). Local band Chasing Daylight will perform and representatives from The Montrose Counseling Center will be on hand as well.

It's a case of people putting their talents to work to do some good. "I'm not a professional that can address questions about depression," says Stevens, "but I can help to raise awareness of this taboo and stigmatized subject. The Depressed Cake Shop is designed to do this in a lighthearted way. Our only goal is to bake gray goodies, sell these goodies and donate 100% of the proceeds to The Montrose Counseling Center."

You'd think that grey- and black-frosted goodies might be unattractive, but they are instead starkly beautiful--even whimsical in some cases. Sally Huffer with The Montrose Center agrees, saying: "There is a part in the movie, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where Willy brings his guests into the World of Pure Imagination. The Depressed Cake Pop-Up Shop is like that part of the movie, except you're watching it on a black and white television. There are confections of all kinds, many of them whimsical, so tempting and all in shades of grey. That's the tangible part of this event.

The intangible is being surrounded by people and still feeling all alone. Flour, sugar, eggs and butter are a delicious way to raise awareness, and thanks to Jody Stevens, we were able to use the $4,600 raised last year to help our clients who work in the service industries, where we see the highest rates of worker depression. Our Employee Assistance Program is there for businesses to refer their LGBT employees to get the help they need so that they may continue to be productive members of society."

This year's event seems especially poignant and meaningful. The young, respected and phenomenally talented Houston chef Grant Gordon was found dead of an apparent suicide. The tragedy left many who knew him wondering how they could have helped prevent it.

Looming large, also, is the recent suicide of a figure who was loved worldwide. Robin Williams fought depression and addiction for much of his adult life.

Stevens says "In light of recent events in the food community, with the loss of someone we knew, it really does bring reality closer to home. This is on the heels of the loss of someone as prominent as Robin Williams. It leaves a lot of people asking the question "why?" or "how? Almost every time that I discuss The Depressed Cake Shop with someone, I get a story from that individual of how depression has touched their lives. It is shocking that so many people suffer silently when they do not have to. "

Stevens also posted on The Depressed Cake Shop's Facebook page yesterday that she's still looking for a few volunteers to help and is also seeking donations of disposable plates and utensils. Of course, you can also help by stopping by and picking up some lovely baked goods. You might even use them as conversation starter with someone who may be suffering in silence.

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