Sharing home-baked treats after the Christmas Eve celebration has been a long-standing tradition at Cincinnati Friends Meeting. But in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, when our contact with each other was reduced to being squares in a Zoom call, it just wasn’t possible. Or was it?
During a post-worship chat session in early December, Marjorie Isaacs remembered how valued she felt when a member of her professional organization personally delivered a package of snacks to her door. And it gave her an idea: what if people from the Meeting went ahead and baked those cookies and then delivered them to folks who could use a little spark of joy? The call for volunteers went out to the Meeting’s email list, and ten families stepped up to bake, deliver, or both.
Marjorie (who serves on our ad hoc Public Health Committee) sent the bakers meticulous instructions to ensure that the cookies were produced following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other research groups. She advised the bakers to wear masks and wash their hands for 20 seconds before taking the cookies out of the oven, and to put them on a hard surface that had been disinfected or at least washed with soap and water. The bakers then put their wares into sandwich bags or wrapped them in wax paper, about four cookies to a packet. These small bags then went into a new box or bag, or one that hadn’t been touched or breathed on for a few days, along with a single sample cookie in a clear container to help the packers assemble the plates with a nice variety. The masked and socially distanced bakers then brought about 28 dozen cookies to the meetinghouse on Saturday, December 19, from 1-3:00 PM.
At 3 PM, the packaging began! Debbie Overmyer created the cookie plate design and decorations, and guided the packers in assembling the plates so that each recipient had an attractively arranged assortment. Kristin Lally designed and printed lovely cards for each recipient, as well as thank you notes for the volunteers.
Ministry & Counsel, Jim Newby, and others had nominated thirteen households to receive the plates of goodies, with a special focus on those who might be sheltering at home with little or no human contact due to their being at higher risk for infection. The next task was getting the cookies safely into their hands.
In addition to paying close attention to public health, Marjorie also has a special concern for the environment. How could the drivers deliver all these labors of love while still minimizing air pollution from their cars? Dick Patterson showed an uncanny understanding of where almost everyone lives, and figured out which recipients lived closest to drivers’ homes. Another objective was to ensure that the volunteers who both baked and delivered could make only one trip to the meetinghouse instead of two. They were able to pick up their assembled plates to deliver shortly after they brought in the cookies they baked, rather than having to make a second trip to the meetinghouse to pick up the assembled plates the next day. That was one busy hour assembling their plates!
The drivers contacted their recipients in advance to find a mutually convenient time to deliver the treats by December 23. Marjorie instructed the drivers to put a freshly washed towel or other cloth on the car seat where the cookies were to be placed. To add to the festive spirit, Debbie Overmyer provided the drivers with a fine herd of reindeer antlers; a few interesting winter-themed hats were also available.
If the drivers and recipients couldn’t align their schedules, the masked drives dropped off the plates in a secure location like an enclosed porch where the local fauna couldn’t get to them. Otherwise, the drivers often paused for a short visit. Sometimes they spoke through a closed storm door, sliding patio door, or first-floor window, supplemented by a phone call when necessary. With glass barriers between them, the drivers and recipients could see each other’s smiling faces—no masks required, and virtual hugs welcomed!
This project required extensive thought, planning, and effort by many people. Yet it showed that with minimum risk of spreading the coronavirus, we could and did radiate the spirit of giving and sharing!