Calvary Cookie Factory delivers warm sentiments and raises funds, too

Kids enlist to offer Mids a bit of cheer

February 07, 2007|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,sun reporter

The clangs of cookie sheets and closing ovens were drowned out by the high-pitched banter of late-night sleepovers: teenage romances, school rivalries.

At Calvary United Methodist Church on Saturday, several dozen teenagers had gathered early on a cold morning to raise money for service projects they will take on this summer.

The fundraising plan was typical: They were going to sell cookies.

What was not typical was that they baked them, too. In a four-hour stretch, the volunteers baked 15,600 cookies, or 1,300 dozen, packaged in a plastic bag with a personalized message.

By midday, representatives from "The Calvary Cookie Factory," as the Annapolis church calls the monthly effort, delivered the goods, still warm, to nearly a quarter of the student body at the Naval Academy.

"It's a good time to spend with the kids, and they get to have some time with each other as well outside of their regular activities," said Kevin Burroughs, the church's youth director and manager of the Cookie Factory.

The midshipmen typically call the doldrums of winter "the dark ages," so orders spike in February, as parents try to brighten their Mids' days with a little fat and sugar, he said.

The church charges $3.50 a dozen and uses the money to send its youth group to repair homes for the elderly and underprivileged, assist at nursing homes and run a summer camp for younger children.

Most of the customers are midshipmen's parents from around the country, Burroughs said, although they do get some local orders. He hopes to expand to St. John's College next year.

Liz Craney, the "cookie chairman" for the Annapolis Parents Club of Southern California, said the club sends cookies through the church to about 110 midshipmen who hail from California on their birthdays.

"For some years, people would send cookies to the guys for their birthdays, but then we discovered the Cookie Factory," she said. "Finding somebody there who would deliver them warm was really a help and a blessing for us, and we feel good supporting them because we are supporting a youth project and they do many wonderful things with the money they raise.

"And the Mids, of course, enjoy getting cookies."

Kate Sweely, 15, said she's been helping at the factory for five years. Last year, funds from the cookies help send Kate and others to New Orleans to help clean and rebuild homes that ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"It was really kind of a rewarding experience to be there," she said. "These people had been living in FEMA trailers for six months, and they were really grateful for all the work we did."

The Calvary Cookie Factory has been operating for about 25 years. Bakers used to work all day to produce fewer cookies, but the church eventually upgraded and bought a dough-dropping machine and a larger oven to enable workers to produce more in less time.

So how do you make 15,000 cookies in four hours? First, Jean Graf, a cookie-making veteran at the church, keeps the recipe tucked in her memory. She mixes the dough, which then goes into the dough-dropper and onto cookie sheets that fit into two ovens.

About 10 trays come out every five minutes, and the kids help cool and package the cookies. The batches go into plastic bags with messages such as "Happy Birthday," and then the crew goes to Bancroft Hall and prepares the goods for delivery.

After they had cut and stacked the messages in a small box, a group of four or five 12-year-olds who called themselves "the Slacker Station" sat and chatted about how late they stayed up the night before, when the church organized a lock-in. They also said they liked making cookies.

"I think it's, like, fun, because, like, I get to be with all my friends," said Jenna Duvall, 12, who giggled when she confessed she was up until 3:30 a.m.

Lauren Duncan, 12, said she was glad the cookies "help parents connect with their kids, if they want to."

Becky Tantella, 12, said she wanted to be able to give midshipmen a break from their busy schedules. "They're really, really, really busy, I mean, like a lot of school work, and they have to wake up at 5 in the morning or something to go running," she said. "This can give them something to be excited about, for once."

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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