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Oklahoma woman has sweet reason to battle hunger

Tuesdays through Saturdays, the Sweetness Factory in Weatherford makes cupcakes, cookies, brownies and various pastries, not for owner Deb Hanson's personal profit, but so that the funds can be donated to feed hungry children in western Oklahoma.
by Bryan Painter Modified: February 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: February 2, 2014

The Lord's Prayer includes the words, “give us this day our daily bread.”

One day, Deb Hanson took that daily bread, the Scripture of Romans 15:13, and watched it ultimately become the Sweetness Factory. Now, Tuesdays through Saturdays, the Weatherford business makes cupcakes, cookies, brownies and various pastries, not for Hanson's personal profit, but so that the funds can be donated to feed hungry children in western Oklahoma.

Hanson's health has been a long-term struggle. Five years ago she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Hanson was told her organs would start shutting down. She was not given a good prognosis. This came after she had already dealt with cancer several years earlier and was continuing to deal with several other conditions already brought on by the lupus.

“I was encouraged by my doctors to go for whatever dreams I had then and not wait for the future,” said Hanson, 44.

She soon began to flood her mind and heart with Scripture and felt led to Romans 15:13, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“As I was praying and believing that God would show me His way, I read an article in the local newspaper that crushed my heart,” Hanson said.

The response

An elementary school student had asked her teacher for a half-eaten banana out of the trash can, because the child was hungry. Hanson said school officials monitored the child and found she was hoarding food scraps during lunch. School officials found other students weren't being fed during the weekends.

They contacted the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The Food for Kids program came to Weatherford, specifically the backpack program, which provides backpacks of sustainable food to children in need over the weekend and holidays.

As Hanson read the article, her tears fell onto the newspaper. She continues to cry for that little girl. But more than just shedding tears, she began acting on the pain she felt for a child she didn't know.

“My husband (Tim) and I immediately gave a donation to the Food for Kids program, but it just didn't feel like we were to donate and walk away,” she said.

And they didn't.

On Oct. 2, 2012, they opened the Sweetness Factory. It is not a nonprofit.

“Instead we have made a commitment and choose to be a not for personal profit business,” she said. “We cash out the register, pay our utilities, supplies and employees and donate the remainder to Food for Kids programs serving western Oklahoma.

“We send the funds directly to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and earmark the funds for schools in western Oklahoma that need help completing their funding.”

In the first year of business at 500 N Washington Ave., they were able to provide funding for 23,840 meals for children in that area of the state, Hanson said.

The family lives off Tim's salary as a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

Tim, 44, also helps Deb and their son, Parker, 16, run the shop along with “13 fabulous employees who work long hours because they too believe in our mission.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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