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Badillo bakes cheesecakes to help less fortunate Alabama families at Christmas

At Christmas, Amy Badillo gives a gift straight from her heart: cheesecake money.

For the past 10 years, Badillo has helped a needy family at the holidays, funded by her cheesecakes, baked with love.

Those cheesecakes of many flavors – Oreo, red velvet, turtle, Reese’s, dark chocolate, original, pumpkin and lime – this year earned Badillo $625 to buy clothes, toys and gifts for a family of eight in Leeds, Alabama.

“The family I helped was a member of my sister’s church,” said Badillo, an Alabama Power Environmental Affairs specialist at the company’s General Services Complex in Calera. “My sister took them to thrift stores so that we could get like-new clothes and provide for all eight of them. With the money, we were able to provide winter clothes for all the children.

“My sister also bought them some things on Amazon, some toys and other things, so all the family got everything they wanted on their list,” said Badillo, who also gave $100 to a family at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Columbiana, which she attends.

Badillo’s baking inspired by a need

Throughout the years, Badillo has donated money to schools in Moody and Calera, and for Angel Tree children. Previously, Badillo has bought gifts for two sisters at Calera Elementary School, donated to the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Pell City and given to families at her church.

Badillo’s baking project originally was spurred by her sister’s need for a new washing machine. At that time, Badillo had recently bought a washer for her own home but also wanted to help her older sister, Wendy.

“I wanted to share that great feeling of getting a new washer, but I didn’t have the money to give,” she said.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I wish I could buy you a new one,’ because of how I felt – it was wonderful to get a new one,” Badillo added. “So, that’s how I initially started baking the cheesecakes. The money went to my sister the first year.”

Truly a labor of love

This season, Badillo spent 28 hours baking and selling cheesecakes. She also delivered the goodies to customers.

Her top seller is original cheesecake, but Oreo, Reese’s and turtle flavors aren’t far behind.

Badillo, who earned a chemistry degree, uses ingenuity to create different flavors. She developed pumpkin-flavored cheesecake and made lemon-blueberry cheesecake for the first time this year.

When a customer requested a red velvet cheesecake, she said, “I played around with it and looked at different recipes to come up with it. The different flavors came throughout the years as people told me what they love.”

Baking is time-consuming. Badillo spends about 30 minutes mixing each batter. She bakes the cheesecake for two hours, then leaves it to cool on a countertop for about four hours. Afterwards, the dessert must be refrigerated for six to eight hours, then frozen, if not served immediately.

Badillo spends about $100 of her own money on ingredients. All proceeds go to the family she helps each season.

Making the difference someone will never forget

Badillo’s desire to help others is personal. Growing up in a family of nine girls, there wasn’t a lot of money for gifts.

But one year at Christmas, she recalled, her church bought gifts, clothes and “all kinds of things” for her family. When they left one evening to attend a church social, there were only a few presents under their tree.

“And when we came back, I was the first one in the house, and there were presents – so many, that they were all the way up to the windowsill,” Badillo remembered, her voice rising with excitement. “The gifts were 3 or 4 feet or 5 feet tall under the tree. And I just remember that Christmas, and that people cared.”

That is why Badillo puts so much effort into helping others at the holidays. Despite her bustling household and being a mom of three children, Rubi, 16; Alex, 11; and Joanna, 7 – and having a full-time job – Badillo won’t allow being too busy or too tired to deter her mission.

“Everyone should have at least one Christmas they won’t ever forget,” Badillo said, “a time when you felt like you were remembered, and that people cared. And you mattered.

“That’s really what I want to do for other people, to help somebody else have a merry Christmas and to try to make a difference in at least one person’s life.”