When Emily Zimmerman lost her Paradise home to the Camp Fire, her cupcake shop, Lovely Layers Cakery, became her refuge. She leaned into her second home, continuing to work and bake sweet treats while she and her husband embarked on a lengthy recovery process.
Nearly two years later, when the Bear Fire (now the North Complex) made its run into Butte County earlier this month, Zimmerman looked up at an orange sky. She was transported back to that fateful day, Nov. 8, 2018, when her community lost everything.
“All the feelings were kind of getting dredged back up,” she said. Amid feelings of frustration, uncertainty and sadness, she worried for her friends still living on the Ridge, some of whom had to evacuate.
Zimmerman knew she wanted to do something to help. She immediately began offering free cupcakes, goodies and coffee to North Complex Fire survivors and first responders.
But Zimmerman didn’t stop there. She wanted to try and reach even more people, launching the Kindness Card program, wherin customers can make donations to the shop that are then used to account for the supplies and labor needed to bake and deliver goodies to anyone impacted by the fires.
Zimmerman put in the first $100 on Sept. 9. Then the fund took off, reaching $4,000 in less than a day. “I can’t even believe it’s been that big,” she told the CN&R.
Lovely Layers has now raised over $7,000, and Zimmerman and her small but mighty team of three employees—along with the help of some volunteers—have delivered hundreds of cupcakes, cookies and other baked treats to evacuees, firefighters, law enforcement officers and veterinarians. They’ve also used the fund to provide material donations and monetary assistance to survivors.
This includes providing groceries, kitchen necessities and homemade cookies to the community of Paskenta, which mobilized to provide services to evacuees and visiting firefighters; delivering seven dozen cupcakes to Valley Oak Veterinary Hospital staff, which has been treating burned and injured animals; giving a box of vegan cupcakes and financial assistance to the owners of Pizza Riot, who had to evacuate.
On Sept. 12, volunteers brought baked goods to the Paradise Police Department, Butte County Sheriff’s Office in Chico, Chico Police Department and the Butte County Cal Fire station in Paradise. Cal Fire Engineer Nick Carson told the CN&R that it was a meaningful gesture receiving a surprise batch of cookies.
“It was a pleasant surprise after being on duty for a month that people were thinking about us and putting in that kind of effort for us,” he said.
Zimmerman told the CN&R that she knows the power that one small act of kindness can have. She and her husband lived in an RV for 14 months while they developed raw land in Forest Ranch. They moved into their new home in November 2019, one year after the disaster.
During their recovery, they have received an outpouring of support from her customers and from others in the community. That continued support is how she’s able to do her part today.
“I’m really happy that I have a type of business that I can give to people and it’ll make their day a little better,” she said. “It’s my way of kind of paying it forward.”
Help out: Know someone impacted by the North Complex Fire who could use a little kindness or support? Lovely Layers is seeking nominations, as well as volunteers to deliver baked goods. Visit the shop at 131 Meyers St., or call 828-9931.
To donate: Contact the shop, or Venmo @lovelylayerscakery (use code 6355 if prompted).
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