It has been 15 years now, and Operation Cookie Bag in Rose Valley is still going strong.
The idea originated with Terry Quaal. When she moved from Birch Hills back to Rose Valley, she thought it would be a nice gesture and a Christmas treat if the ladies of her church baked cookies and gave them to those unable to bake anymore, or who live alone.
At first the church did not pick up on the idea. Quaal was persistent, however, and mentioned it to her pastor Marc Lapointe, who mentioned it to his wife Mary, who offered to make cookies for Quaal. Mary also convinced her neighbour Helen Danko to bake cookies for the project.
That was the start, in Christmas 1999. Soon Ebba Holt, Elsie Rustad, Jean Connell and Stephanie Sorba joined the cookie crew. Over the years, the crew has grown to more than 20 who donate cookies and time to the yearly project, which Quaal dubbed Operation Cookie Bag.
In the first few years, Quaal would just ask for a donation of cookies in any amount, and she sorted them at her house before delivering them. In recent years she has moved the operation to the church as she no longer has enough space at home.
It has not been just local people who donate, either.
“One time I was getting my freezer ready for the cookies when Pastor Bill Dyck came to do some plumbing in the housing unit. I told him what I was doing and he thought it was a good idea. He said, ‘I’ll bet Sara will bake for you too.’ And she did.”
There are 20 recipients who look forward to the cookies every year. Last year, some Rose Valley School students under the direction of Betty Rudychuk contributed their cookies to Quaal’s enterprise. This year, the Beta Sigma Phi group is helping with the baking and bagging; a form of “paying it forward,” according to them.
Helen Bratushesky, Alma Stull and Elaine Bakken have been helping for many years as well. Bakken not only bakes but sorts and delivers cookies, and both she and Bratushesky keep space in their freezers for the donated cookies.
Saskatchewan is truly blessed with many volunteers willing to donate their time and caring to others. Terry Quaal and her bakers surely stand out among them.
By Charlene Wirtz