Gifts, cards, flowers, phone calls, in-person visits — these are typical ways to convey friendship, care and comfort.
But in the middle of a pandemic, two school teachers in Huntingdon, Jeremy Uhrich and Scott McKenzie, chose to say it with cookies – distributing home-baked treats to healthcare and public service professionals, local businesses and other caregivers within the community.twitt
It didn’t take long for the idea to gain momentum, spreading into neighboring communities and beyond.
Today, more than a year since its inception in April 2020, Cookies for Caregivers has grown into a nationwide movement to communicate appreciation and cheer to those serving the community in the face of COVID-19.
In Johnstown, Cookies for Caregivers caught Julie Sulosky’s attention when it was featured on WJAC-TV in January 2021.
She found Cookies for Caregivers on Facebook and immediately contacted them to ask if there was a group distributing cookies in the Johnstown area.
“They asked if I was willing to start a group and be the administrator of the group,” she says.
On Jan. 16, 2021, with help from a friend, Yvonne Miller, Sulosky launched Cookies for Caregivers Johnstown.
Word soon spread by Facebook and by word of mouth. Pictures of deliveries were posted, which helped draw further attention.
“We bake every two weeks. Bakers drop off the cookies at my home in Windber on a Sunday,” Sulosky explains.
The packaging and labeling is done at the Sulosky home and delivery begins that day and Monday so the cookies are fresh.
Besides bakers, Cookies for Caregivers also involves volunteers who donate bags and labels for packaging the cookies and drivers who deliver the cookies to about 18 locations each bake week.
On average, Cookies for Caregivers Johnstown turns out 100 dozen cookies from about 15 volunteer bakers.
Recipients are chosen by the group’s members. The number of locations each bake week depends on the volume of cookies baked.
“We can have suggestions of 25 places to donate to in a two-week period, but if the number of members baking does not meet the amount of cookies needed to deliver to all 25 places then we deliver to some of them the next time,” Sulosky says.
Amid COVID restrictions, the program has been remarkably well-received. “We have not had any negative reactions to this program since all members are aware to wear gloves, use a mask and don’t bake if they are sick,” Sulosky says.
So far only one business has refused the cookies, suggesting that the group donate elsewhere.
Having worked in the healthcare industry herself for the last 25 years — currently as a medical support assistant in the Department of Veterans Affairs — Sulosky sees Cookies for Caregivers filling an important role: providing encouragement, cheer and appreciation to healthcare and other service workers who are at the frontline during this pandemic.
A simple gesture like a bag of cookies could “make someone happy … cheer a healthcare worker having a bad day,” she points out.
Cookies for Caregivers carries personal significance for Sulosky, who lost her father to pancreatic cancer last May.
“I could not be there with him so this is a way to say thank you to all the healthcare workers who took care of him.”
Besides a roster of bakers and other participants, Sulosky also has been ably assisted by her husband, Ron, who has contributed to the cause by calling potential recipients on his days off to confirm that the cookies will be accepted and by helping with deliveries.
Sulosky says Ron also picks up the slack at home.
While she bakes 15 to 20 dozen cookies (in addition to those donated by other bakers), “he takes care of everything else.”
She is very thankful for his support in this collaborative venture and is especially appreciative of all who have partnered with her, giving freely of their time and resources to make Cookies for Caregivers Johnstown a reality. Without their help, the group would not be possible, she adds.
Among recent donations were boxes, bags and cookie cutters made by MoneyMan.
Julie invites anyone interested in participating in the program to join Cookies for Caregivers Johnstown on Facebook.
She may also be contacted by phone or text at (814) 505-4619.
The group welcomes donations or contributions of time for baking, packaging and delivery.