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Mom's giant homemade cinnamon roll fetches more than $5,000 for COVID relief

These cinnamon rolls are raking in the dough... for a great cause.
/ Source: TODAY

Feeling down and discouraged while quarantined at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Whitney Light Rutz tried baking a giant cinnamon roll with her daughter to lift their spirits.

It worked — and then some. In fact, that one cinnamon roll has fed more people than the Portland, Oregon, mom ever expected.

After Rutz posted a video of them making the oversized treat on Instagram, friends quickly began commenting; they wanted the recipe, and some began asking Rutz how much it would cost to have her make one for them.

Rutz had an idea: She offered to bake another giant cinnamon roll for an auction, and she would donate the proceeds to the Oregon Food Bank.

"I've been feeling super down and anxious about everything that’s going on right now," she wrote on Instagram. "I had myself a big ole ugly scream cry on Friday about it. Instead of staying in that darkness, I decided I needed to focus on something positive — something that brings me joy.... that’s baking and giving!"

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The highest bid on her first roll was $300. Rutz was thrilled. But then, she said, it "snowballed." Though her initial plan was to bake five giant cinnamon rolls a week, the demand was much higher, and bids started rolling in from donors in other states. Some winners told Rutz they couldn't possibly eat the 5-pound rolls by themselves, and they wanted her to give them to others who could.

Rutz decided to bake one giant cinnamon roll for every $500 she collected for the Oregon Food Bank through her giving site. She began donating the rolls to local Portland health care workers and assisted living facility staff members in boxes decorated by her husband, Paul X. Rutz, who is an artist.

Now, Rutz is baking over 20 rolls a week with the help of her twin sister and a friend. The most anyone has bid for a single cinnamon roll so far is $5,160. Portland-based Nike employees' donations are being triple-matched by the company.

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To date, the project has raised more than $37,000 and has funded more than 100,000 meals for the Oregon Food Bank at a time when more families than ever are suffering from economic and food insecurity.

This week, bidders have an added incentive: Portland Trailblazers coach Terry Stotts autographed boxes to sweeten the deal even more. The five highest bidders will win the autographed boxes and decide where the rolls will go.

Rutz, who works from home, does most of her baking on the weekends. She has bought almost all of the supplies herself, though singer kd lang did gift her with two new cast iron skillets. "Our family is spending way less than we would be if the world was open right now," she said. "At least the money is going somewhere good."

And though her 7-year-old daughter Elsa — who would want you to know she was not named after the Disney princess, her mother said — has grown a little tired of baking, Rutz is grateful that her quarantine therapy has turned into a movement.

"I cannot imagine where my head would be right now if I didn't have this," she said.