Sweet rewards from Silverland Desserts in Forest Park

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A Forest Park bakery owner has announced an effort to support organizations that improve the lives of women and girls. Athena's Silverland Desserts and the Oak Park-River Forest Community Trust are looking for not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organizations that "enhance the lives and self-esteem of women and girls in need," said Chris Ogden, Silverland operations manager. The deadline for the grant is January 14, 2012.

Now 56, owner Athena Uslander was chosen in 2005 as one of five women to be model/spokeswomen for Unilever's Dove Pro-Age skin care products campaign, which sent her to Prague, Canada and Madrid. She also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Uslander put her earnings from the campaign into a fund for women and girls, said Ogden. Other customers and well-wishers have also donated to the fund.

"She's always believed in giving back to the community," he said. "She wants to support women and girls." Uslander is currently visiting relatives in Iran and was unavailable for comment. In the past, the fund has awarded grants to the Maywood Tennis Association Scholarship Fund, and Girls in the Game, Chicago, among others.

Uslander is a native of Tehran, Iran and a former structural engineer and bridge designer who started her wholesale dessert bakery in 1983, said Ogden. She lives in River Forest. Her staff describe her as a precise scientist who uses industrial scientific scales to measure ingredients to 1/100th of a pound. The bakery at 439 Desplaines Ave. contains a cafe and sells brownies, dessert bars and other treats to restaurants, grocery stores and catering businesses.

Organizations who wish to apply for the grant can find information on the Web at: www.silverlanddesserts.com. Search for "Athena's Fund."

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