What started as a little friendly competition evolved into the official launch of "Cookies for Caregivers" in April. Since then, they've been busy sharing treats with those who deserve them most.

By Kelly Vaughan
December 09, 2020
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Cookies for Caregivers
Credit: Courtesy of Cookies for Caregivers via Facebook

Throughout the pandemic, many people took up new hobbies including baking sourdough bread, completing puzzles, needlepointing, and even renovating their homes. It's a fact that Scott McKenzie, a 58-year-old father and college coach, knows all too well. After McKenzie was furloughed from his associate coaching job at a local liberal arts college in Pennsylvania due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, McKenzie was determined to learn a new skill each week, starting with baking cookies. He wanted to share his first successful batch of chocolate chip cookies with his family and friends, so he took to social media to share the sweet news. His friend, 42-year-old middle school teacher Jeremy Uhrich, was impressed but told McKenzie that he could do better. Thus, the friendliest of baking wars began, Good News Network reports.

After baking batches of cookies, McKenzie and Uhrich approached Huntington Borough Mayor David Wessels to pick the winner, and the two men agreed to deliver the rest of the cookies to essential workers after victory was declared. One of Uhrich's former students decided to enter the showdown as well—and was ultimately declared the winner. After showcasing the competition on Facebook Live, McKenzie and Uhrich created a Facebook group called "Cookies for Caregivers," with the hope that more members from the Hungtindon, Pennsylvania, community would volunteer to bake treats for essential workers. Within a few days, the group had over 100 enthusiastic members.

Each week, McKenzie and Uhrcih selected four volunteers to bake several dozen cookies. Since April, "Cookies for Caregivers" has donated more than 15,000 cookies to essential workers within their community. "Half the people we deliver cookies to are in tears. There is so much raw emotion surrounding everything we're going through—be it the political environment, the pandemic environment, the employment environment. Giving somebody a little sweet piece of normalcy has pulled a lot of folks through these times," McKenzie told The Washington Post.

And while the bake-off initially started as a competition comparing chocolate chip cookies, the bakers have now delivered chocolate chip, sugar cookies, butterscotch, snickerdoodle, cupcakes, fudge, and peanut butter blossoms. "As far as cookies go, you name it, we've delivered it," said Uhrich. The sweet surprise has certainly come as a welcome treat during an immensely challenging time for hospital workers. "They absolutely love it. 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," said Joe Myers, president of Penn Highlands Huntingdon Hospital. In addition to hospital workers, "Cookies for Caregivers" has also donated cookies to the staff of a local newspaper, fire departments, schools, and post offices. It has even inspired additional chapters in Illinois, California, Kentucky, Missouri, and Washington.

"Jeremy and I may have been the catalyst for how this began, but it's really our bakers that sustain the effort," said McKenzie. "This is a direct reflection of our community as a whole, and a credit to them," Uhrich added. "This community is small in size, but huge in heart."

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