Feb 162011

By Celine Klosterman

The first Wednesday of each month, thanks to volunteers at St. Mary Parish in Dodgeville, the Great River Hospice House in West Burlington fills with the scent of fresh-baked cookies.

The parish is among seven organizations and 28 individuals providing treats for Hospice House patients and families through the Cookies for Comfort program. Each day of the year, bakers mix dough at their homes or in the kitchen at the facility for people nearing life’s end. When the aroma of cookies baking wafts from the oven, volunteers hope they’ve helped residents and visitors feel a little more at home.

“It’s just fun to help people out at a hard time in their lives. I love to bake, and this is a way to give back,” parishioner Kathy Baker said. A staff educator with Great River Health Systems, she got St. Mary’s involved after the Hospice House was built in fall 2007.

“I put the sign-up sheet in the back of the church, and it fills up quickly,” she said. Mothers and daughters and grandmothers and granddaughters often sign up to bake together. Community Fellowship, a parish event-planning group, also helps out. Last year, the group made extra dough to keep in the Hospice House freezer for snowy days when bakers can’t travel to the building.

“Families are always so touched when I tell them we have fresh cookies baked every day,” said Barbara Miller, a social worker with Great River Hospice. “The smell of the cookies is just the best sensation when someone walks into the Hospice House.”

“Food is a universal meeting place for all generations,” said Janelle McGuire, a Great River Hospice nurse. Cookies especially help make children feel welcome, she added.

All day, the treats sit on a platter on a counter with coffee for people to enjoy. 

“We have such a great parish family; everyone helps,” Baker said.

To be a substitute baker or crochet angels for families of patients who die in Great River Hospice care, call Great River Hospice at (319) 768-3350. 

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