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Nearly 200 dozen cookies baked and delivered to more than 20 organizations in 40 or so days. That’s a lot of cookies.
Remarkably, it’s what a local “Cookies for Caregivers” group has accomplished since its inception on Jan. 21.
As Jake Ngo, founder of the Cookies for Caregivers Santa Clara County chapter, explained, “We deliver the cookies to first responders, essential workers, caregivers … We want to show our respect for them because they’re always there risking their lives while we’re still at home, and I just feel like they’re very overlooked in terms of how important they are for keeping us safe.”
Ngo, a junior at San Jose’s Bellarmine College Preparatory, decided to establish a chapter of the Facebook-based group after learning more about it from his mother. Two teachers in Pennsylvania, Jeremy Uhrich and Scott McKenzie, created Cookies for Caregivers in April 2020, and it has since grown substantially in terms of its volunteer base and chapter locations throughout the United States.
“Jeremy’s been mentoring me through this, like with how to get started,” Ngo shared. “I wanted to use my management skills, like those I’ve developed when playing sports, to be able to manage a group like this (and) give back to the community.”
Cookies for Caregivers – Santa Clara County, the public Facebook group that Ngo oversees, currently has 50 members, many of whom have volunteered to bake cookies for the numerous essential workers deserving of sweet treats.
“People will ping me on Messenger and just go, ‘Hey Jake, I’ve got some cookies. Do you want to come pick them up? Or I can drop them off because I know you’re busy,’” said Ngo. “And then I’ve got other people in my neighborhood, like my next door neighbor. My mom and grandma also bake.”
Ngo has also garnered more volunteer bakers via Instagram posts and by promoting Cookies for Caregivers in his church’s bulletin. He said, “I’ve been getting parishioners from my church to come bake cookies. Most of the people baking tend to be elderly with a lot of free time on their hands.”
To no surprise, the two most common types of cookies that these generous volunteers bake are chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, both standard cookie faves. But, as Ngo pointed out, people craft these popular treats in myriad ways.
“It’s interesting to see the different types of cookies that people make, the different ways that they can make a traditional chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie because just by looking at it you can tell, like, oh, that’s a crunchy cookie or that’s a chewy cookie,’” he said. “It shows that people have different styles or different ways to make the same kind of cookie. They all put their own little spin on baking, which makes (the cookies) different.”
The cookies are typically nut-free since, as Ngo commented during an interview, “we want to still give cookies to those who have nut allergies.”
Once baked, the cookies are carefully arranged in square cardboard bakery boxes or clear plastic containers. A label is affixed that reads, “Please accept these treats as a token of our respect for your continued work during the pandemic. We appreciate that you show up every day to serve us. We truly value your commitment to our community!” When they are packaged and ready to go, Ngo heads out to distribute them to a particular group, business, or organization.
“When I deliver them, everyone’s very appreciative,” Ngo said. “Everyone’s got smiles on their faces, and they’re so happy. You know, it brings joy to me.”
So far, Santa Clara County cookie recipients have included several schools, senior living facilities, police departments, medical institutions, post offices and fire stations.
“I’ve been delivering a lot to the firefighters in my area, and I feel like the firefighters are always happy to see me and they’re always joyful, and I feel like they’re one of the groups that is overlooked a lot,” Ngo said. “A lot of people just think of doctors and nurses and people working at vaccination sites, and they tend to not think of the traditional first responders.”
Firefighters, teachers, administrative staff, doctors, nurses, technicians, police officers, mail carriers — the list of essential workers who have taken an appreciative bite into one of these delivered edibles is extensive. And this long, inclusive list of cookie receivers are the beneficiaries of Ngo and his team of volunteers. With a shared interest in mixing ingredients such as sugar, flour, eggs, chocolate chips and raisins, they’ve baked batches of “thank yous” to those whose jobs have been indispensable throughout this pandemic.
Reflecting on the future of his Cookies for Caregivers chapter, Ngo commented, “I hope to continue this as long as there are good Samaritans who are willing to bake cookies to donate to those who are serving us during these trying times.”