Like so many big things, it started out as a small idea that grew and grew. And now, more than 4,000 cookies later, it’s taken on a life of its own.
Students at St. Mary Magdalen School in Brandywine Hundred, like kids all over the state, have been forced to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic, but they’re also making the most of that time by baking cookies for the Ministry of Caring in Wilmington.
It all started with Peggy Strine, the chair of the board of directors of the Riverfront Development Corporation in Wilmington and a long-time supporter of the Ministry of Caring. She contacted Priscilla Rakestraw, the Ministry’s development director, to find out what she could do for the people who come to the Ministry and the Emmanuel Dining Hall for help on a daily basis.
And Rakestraw’s response was immediate and emphatic – and tasty. She requested cookies that could be included in the more than 600 meals the Ministry serves to the needy every day.
“When you can give a kid a cookie, you know how great that is?” Rakestraw said. “Cookies make a bad day better.”
Strine shared the idea with Megan McGlinchey, the executive director of the Riverfront Development Corporation, and they agreed that cookies were the way to go. So, McGlinchey talked to her daughter, Norah, a seventh-grader at St. Mary Magdalen, and they got in contact with Patrick Tiernan, the school’s principal, and Tina Gillen, the student activities coordinator, who embraced the idea.
“St. Mary Magdalen has a long relationship with the Emmanuel Dining Room, so it seemed like a natural fit,” McGlinchey said. “So, we reached out to Patrick and he agreed that it was something St. Mary Magdalen could and should support.
“Then Norah made some flyers and sent them to kids at the school and we said our house can be the location to drop the cookies off, and the whole thing kind of took off from there. It ballooned from the SMM community to people all over contributing.”
Rakestraw said she wasn’t surprised St. Mary Magdalen jumped on board because the school has worked with the Ministry of Caring many times in various fundraisers, from making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Emmanuel Dining Hall to acquiring and donating new pillows to the Ministry of Caring’s homeless shelter.
“They’ve been a Godsend to us,” Rakestraw said. “One thing that is so wonderful about St. Mary Magdalen is they just don’t teach math and science and history. They also teach their kids to be kind.”
Some of those kids bake the cookies and some simply buy them at the grocery store and then drop them off at the McGlinchey’s home in Fairfax Farms. Norah McGlinchey loves to bake and she loves to help people, so she really became the central figure in this charitable gesture.
“We really didn’t know what to expect when we started this, and it’s just totally exceeded our expectations,” Norah said. “At first, I used social media platforms to reach out to other seventh-graders and word just spread until all sorts of people got involved. People got very excited about helping other people, but I don’t think any of us expected it to take off like this.
“It’s been very gratifying and I’m really proud of the entire community because we’re able to help a lot of families in need who don’t have the opportunities and the advantages that we have.”
To Rakestraw, that is another positive about the cookie-baking – not only are the kids from St. Mary Magdalen helping others, they’re also helping themselves become better people.
“For those kids to do this, and do it so enthusiastically and unselfishly, says a lot about their parents and their teachers,” she said.
“For these kids to know and understand that there are other kids out there who aren’t as fortunate as they are, and then to do something about it, is really wonderful, especially when you consider what’s going on in the world right now.
“It’s just a little piece of kindness to each other in this terrible time,” Rakestraw added, “and that’s what is going to bring us back together.”