Christmas cookies were also recently on the minds of a group of Mayo Clinic Hospice volunteers in Rochester. As was the spirit of giving. So on Dec. 1, a group of 15 volunteers made like Santa's elves and baked 180 dozen (you read that right) cookies. And though they admit to doing some taste testing along the way (the pecan bars were "everyone's favorite," we're told by an elf, who added, cruelly, that they "melted in your mouth"), the majority of the treats went to Mayo Clinic Hospice patients and their families.
"Patients often get many visitors around the holidays, and it's nice for them to have cookies to serve to guests and to eat themselves," says Chris Askew, a hospice volunteer who led the cookie crew with fellow volunteer Kathy Dale. But baking takes time and energy — two things in short supply around the holidays. Especially for families with a loved one receiving hospice care. That's why Chris, Kathy and the other hospice elves decided to do the mixing, baking and decorating for them. The group hopes the cookies — not to mention the loving gesture behind them — make the holidays "a little less stressful" for the recipients.
It took the busy bakers just six hours to produce their bounty, which they cooked up in space provided by the Kahler Apache Hotel and Water Park (a.k.a. Santa's workshop). That speed could be the result of experience. This was "about the 20th year" the hospice volunteers have baked Christmas cookies for patients, says Chris, who helped launch the project when she was serving as volunteer coordinator for hospice. The supersized effort doesn't surprise Amy Stelpflug, the current volunteer coordinator. "Our hospice volunteers are always thinking of ways to make life a little easier for our patients and their families," she tells us. "They are so willing to help in any way they can."
This particular flavor of help was much appreciated by the 65 families who received the sweet treats. Volunteer Dick Dale was on delivery detail, and tells us he could see tears in the eyes of some recipients. "It really feels good to brighten someone's day," he says. (We can believe it.) And speaking of believing, Stelpflug shared a thank-you note she received from the family of a patient. "Now we know there REALLY IS a Santa," read the note. "What a generous and thoughtful surprise! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
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