By Maria Lorensen Development Director, Hospice of the Panhandle
The smell of freshly baked sugar cookies wafts through the air. Volunteers line up around the large perimeter of the room, scoping the hundreds of dozens of cookies that lie front of them. Gloves on, they are ready to pack large pink bakery boxes, adorned with Hospice of the Panhandle’s logo. On a side table, where the volunteers (and staff members) sometimes sneak a quick bite, is a box filled with broken cookies – delectable morsels that didn’t quite make the cut.
This is the scene at the three-plus decades long Hospice of the Panhandle Valentine’s Cookie project. For the past 30 years, Hospice volunteers, church members and other community friends have baked thousands of cookies that are delivered throughout the community as a gesture of thanks to partners – physicians, medical office managers, hospital nurse managers, area media outlets, supporters and other friends. The project was the brain-child of the mom of longtime Hospice CEO Margaret Cogswell, Rose Marie Bires. So many businesses and agencies offer thanks during the December holidays. Why not try something different?
And so it started.
All those cookies – homemade chocolate chip, sugar, peanut butter, snicker doodles, brownies – are lovingly prepared by the area’s best bakers. And all are delivered to Hospice’s Education Center, and then packaged for redistribution throughout Berkeley, Hampshire, Jefferson and Morgan counties.
This year, however, that ‘different’ project – which amounted to 1,500 dozen cookies (that’s 18,000 cookies) being distributed last Valentine’s Day – has to be canceled because of the pandemic.
“It really breaks our hearts that we have to do this,” said volunteer services manager Katrina Stevens, who oversees the project. “When you do something for this long, and see how much people look forward to it, you just hate to suspend it.”
Stevens added that the ‘cookie team’ brainstormed many options, but it all came down to safety protocols.
“While we are always very careful about our practices, we just didn’t think we could undertake a project of this magnitude, given what’s happening with the pandemic,” Stevens said. “We just need to keep everyone safe.”
Stevens added that letters have been mailed informing partners of the suspension of the project. Those who bake, pack and deliver the cookies are being notified, as well as those who have received cookies in the past.
“We certainly are no less grateful for the support we receive from the community,” Cogswell said. “We hope that our donors, supporters, advocates and volunteers understand the reasoning behind this decision.”
For more information, contact Stevens at (304) 264-0406.
Maria Lorensen has been the development director at Hospice of the Panhandle for 12 years. To find out how Hospice can help your family, call (304) 264-0406 or visit www.hospiceotp.org