By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — For 25 years, youths and adults from St. Mary Parish have spread cheer to parishioners who are homebound, living in nursing/care centers, or who lost a loved one in the past year.
Youth Minister Patti McTaggart began the project in 1994 as a way to reach out to members of the parish community to let them know “we still remember them.” She noted that some parishioners who receive cookies after the loss of a family member request cookie delivery the following year because the experience touched them.
A mix of children, teenagers and adults participate in the half-day project that begins early with the baking of around 1,600 cookies each year. “That’s around 40,000 in 25 years,” says volunteer Kristin Fuhrmann. Each care package contains about 10 cookies.
In assembly line fashion, one group of youths bakes a variety of cookies, another group applies icing, yet another group adds sprinkles and one more group puts the cookies in containers. The containers go into delivery stacks, said volunteer Kathy Brenneman. Adults and older teens with a driver’s license deliver the cookies with some help from younger youths.
The delivery teams receive lists with a parishioner’s name, address and reason for the delivery. This year, volunteers delivered cookies in Iowa City, Hills, Solon, North Liberty, Lone Tree, Kalona and West Branch. They leave the package at the door if the recipient is not home. “We get faster and faster every year,” said Brenneman.
Parishioner Hazel Miller said, “The cookies are lovely and the youths are so polite and nervous.” She noted that no ovens are available where she lives, so she cannot make cookies herself. She first received cookies after her husband died. “It’s nice to know that someone is thinking about me.”
Parishioner Mary Ann Park said the delivery of cookies “is very important for the giver and the receiver.” The youths who delivered cookies to her last year, the year her husband died, delivered cookies to her this year. “You should have seen their faces light up like lightbulbs,” she said, adding that she had a wonderful chat with the youths. They told her they asked to deliver cookies to her house. She felt so blessed. “Both sides are blessed by this project.”
She no longer bakes, so she enjoys the cookies she receives, which are delicious, she said. She also appreciates that small children along with adults assist with the St. Mary cookies project.
As the youths grow older, they move from baking cookies to participating in deliveries. “Some even come back during break from college,” McTaggart said.
Another St. Mary parishioner was touched to receive cookies this year after losing a loved one. “Bless your hearts,” she told the youths.