In April, Scott McKenzie was, like so many, furloughed from his job. But the Juniata College basketball coach from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania wanted to make the best of his time in quarantine, and decided to choose one new skill to develop each week. His very first personal challenge: baking cookies.
Though the 58-year-old dad had never before baked cookies from scratch, he mastered the art pretty quickly, and took to Facebook to brag about the multiple batches now filling his kitchen. That’s when Jeremy Uhrich, another Huntingdon dad and longtime friend of McKenzie’s, got a little competitive.
“He said, ‘Great job, but I bet mine are better than yours,’” recounts McKenzie. In fact, Urich, a 42-year-old middle school English teacher, was already baking cookies with his two sons when he saw the Facebook post. “Right away, it was on like Donkey Kong,” McKenzie said after Uhrich challenged him. “We decided to have a bake-off.”
Turn Up the Heat
The original plan was to present the rival cookies to a panel of essential workers, who would taste-test and determine the winner. But in the early days of the pandemic, bringing together all of the proper parties was a logistical nightmare. Instead, they decided to ask Huntingdon Mayor David Wessels to act as the sole judge. Before they could present their batches, however, one last contender entered the contest.
That was Rachel Kyle, a former student of Uhrich’s who had read about their bake-off on Facebook. And so, all three amateur bakers brought their batches to the Mayor’s office, where the taste-testing was livestreamed over Facebook. After much ceremony, neither dad took home the honor of first place; it was Rachel Kyle’s cookies that won the Mayor’s heart.
Following the judgment, McKenzie and Uhrich delivered their remaining cookies—several dozen batches of them—to essential workers. These healthcare professionals and local firefighters were touched by the gesture, and it gave the dads a sweet idea.
“We came out of it saying a little bit of sugar and some flour can go a long way. We should do it again,’” recalled Uhrich. And so, Cookies for Caregivers was born.
The Cookie Guys
Returning to Facebook, McKenzie and Uhrich sought out members of the community who were interested in baking cookies for the newborn operation. In just a few weeks, over a hundred of their neighbors had volunteered to bake cookies for local essential workers.
Now drawing from a massive pool of volunteers, the two men decided they would select four participants a week to bake about four dozen cookies. Uhrich is responsible for corresponding with the bakers, while McKenzie communicates with the recipients.
Then, once a week, the bakers drop off their batches at Uhrich’s home, and the two men—now known as “the cookies guys” around the neighborhood—hand-deliver the baked goods to various locations in Huntingdon.
In the eight months since launching Cookie for Caregivers, the cookie guys and their army of volunteers have personal delivered over 15,500 cookies!
Feeling the Love
One regular recipient of cookies is Penn Highlands Huntingdon, the local hospital. Joe Myers, the hospital’s president, says that the cookies have made a serious, positive impact on his staff.
“They absolutely love it,” he vouched. “We deliver them to every department within our hospital so that each and every person working has the opportunity to get the cookies and know the community is there supporting them and thinking of them.”
In addition to the hospital, the cookie guys also regularly deliver to other establishments around town that have remained open amid the pandemic, like the local newspaper. Becky Weikert Bard, the managing editor of the Huntingdon Daily News, was so inspired by their kind gift that she decided to start volunteering herself.
The success of Cookies for Caregivers became so noteworthy, it even earned a story in The Washington Post. Still, the two dads at the heart of the operation have remained humble as they thank the community for embracing the project.
“Jeremy and I may have been the catalyst for how this began,” said McKenzie, “but it’s really our bakers that sustain the effort.”
“This is a direct reflection of our community as a whole, and a credit to them,” added Uhrich. “This community is small in size, but huge in heart.”
Reprinted with permission from https://werax.com/this-friendly-baking-contest-between-dads-has-become-much-more/
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