Toni Fears lives in St. Louis. Her friend Wilma Carson lives in east Mesa. So when Toni decided to surprise Wilma, a widow with no family, with a cake to commemorate her 90th birthday, she started calling bakeries in Mesa.
The problem: The cost of baking and delivering a cake was too expensive. After several unfruitful calls, she happened to call Michael Sornberger at Mom’s Bakery in Mesa. She explained what she wanted and asked Sornberger if he could do the job.
No problem, he told her.
“What will you charge?’’ she asked, bracing herself for further disappointment.
“Don’t worry about it,’’ Sornberger said. “No charge.’’
There was a long pause on the end of the line back in Missouri.
“Who ARE you?’’ Toni asked.
It is a good question for our times. We see genuine charity so seldom that we scarcely recognize it.
Here’s a hint: Sometimes it looks like a young baker named Michael Sornberger.
Sornberger began working at the bakery when he was just 16 years old, just to make some spending money. But over the past 10 years, he learned all aspects of the business and bought the shop a year ago. Mom’s Bakery is in a strip mall on the southwest corner of Guadalupe and Alma School roads.
The bakery is open 6 a.m. to noon Tuesdays through Saturdays, but as its only employee, Sornberger’s hours are long.
“It’s a lot of 14-hour days,’’ Sornberger said. “But that’s OK. I have my own bakery because of it. That’s cool.’’
When Fears called last week, Sornberger was moved by her simple request.
“She just wanted a little cake,’’ Sornberger said. “And she said it was for her friend’s 90th birthday. I was thinking that it might be her last birthday — you never know. So I just decided to do it for free.’’
Sornberger went to work. He got a little carried away, he admitted.
“It was pretty elaborate, kind of like one of those big wedding cakes,’’ said Sornberger, who estimated that such a cake would retail for $130. “I wish I had taken some pictures of it.’’
Sornberger delivered the cake on Carson’s birthday on Wednesday and promptly forgot all about it.
So he was surprised to hear from a newspaper columnist.
“I sure never expected this,’’ he said.
For Sornberger, generosity comes natural. On Saturday morning, he was just finishing 30 dozen cookies he was donating to a local church function. He regularly donates cookies to student groups at nearby Dobson High School.
“I guess my mom just raised me a little different,’’ he said. “I’ve always been that way; it’s my nature. I mean, if you can help people, make them happy, why not? There’s more to life than making money.’’