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Eagle Bend’s cookie elves

Senior center volunteers have been making treasured treats

The Keebler elves have nothing on the three teams of elves that inhabit the Eagle Bend Senior Center every Monday. With combined cookie baking experience of somewhere near 700 years, the Eagle Bend elves know how to make good cookies.

Each elf on the team has predetermined duties as they make the “homemade, fresh baked, no preservative” cookies.

Elf # 1 turns on the convection oven that on Monday mornings and other days of the week produces 4,000 meals (per month) for senior dining. She assembles the ingredients, recipes, and mixer and fills out the worksheet for the day.

Elf # 2 is Elf # 1’s assistant. She gets out the measuring supplies, measures the dry ingredients and helps mix the cookie dough. She’s also responsible for packaging and labeling the cookies.

Elf # 3 is the baker. She scoops the dough onto parchment-covered baking pans, doing a test run of a half sheet of cookies first. Directions are precise: “Using appropriate scoop, (put) one scoop in each corner so paper does not blow over cookie. When (these) cookies are baked and are the proper size and density, then proceed with rest of dough on the big pans in rows (usually 4 x 6) or accordingly.” She bakes the cookies at 225 degrees (this is a convection oven) for seven minutes, turns each pan and bakes them for exactly seven minutes more.

Elf # 4 is Elf # 3’s assistant. She helps scoop the cookie dough onto the pans, transfers baked cookies to cooling racks and helps the whole team in cleaning up.

It was two years ago last October that this cookie baking effort began. They don’t really remember where the idea of baking cookies to raise money for the senior center came from. It may have come from Carol Notch, or Jan Notch, or Verna Toenyan. But the general consensus was, “Let’s do it!” The Initiative Foundation’s Healthy Community Partnership provided some seed money… dough… to get started.  The center already had a licensed kitchen, so with unbounded enthusiasm and all those years of cookie baking experience, the project was off to a sweet start. They had a contest to name the cookie project. Twila Pierce suggested the winning entry of “Treasured Treats.”

As to the elf assignments, the ladies say they needed job descriptions to be sure that everything gets done and the ovens are turned off at the end of the baking day. “Burning cookies doesn’t happen anymore,” they laugh, although there’s surely more to that story than they were willing to divulge. Men are conspicuously absent from the elf teams yet they have their own job description, too. “They come in looking for ‘oops’ cookies,” and insist that the cookies need to be “test drove.”

Three elf teams rotate through the month. Each team bakes once every three weeks. Team one consists of Gladys Judes, Elsie Gustafson, Doris Pachan and Joyce Skolte. Team two is Carrol Peterson, Dorothy Rachuy, Carol Hammond and Betty Gabler. Team 3 is Jan Notch, Lorraine Froehlich, Corliss Seward and Bev Guse. There’s also a substitute list to be sure each elf role is filled on baking day: Iris Chandler, Cleone Johnson, Karen Beach, Darlene Klemek and Karen Moller. Norma Bergstrom is the elves’ guardian angel. She picks up orders, checks for and buys the groceries and stops in to see if there is something to help with.

Chocolate chip, butterscotch chip, ginger, peanut butter and oatmeal are the five regular flavors. Shirley’s Gas, a local convenience store and gas station, puts in a weekly order. Treasured Treats find their way to bank and library events, the local Red Cross blood drive, and fill special orders.

Christmas is a big time for cookies, and Treasured Treats cookie list expands to include old-time favorites: chocolate crinkles, cherry winks, peanut blossoms, sugar cookies, dipped ginger snaps, dipped chocolate chips, cathedral cookies, date pinwheels and cranberry orange. Preorders are taken by the dozen for individual kinds or assorted platters.

“We tried spritz cookies,” said Jan Notch. “But they didn’t work very well. We got the order done.” But they scratched that variety off the list. Sugar cookies are also only baked for Christmas or special orders.

Treasured Treat elves emphasize that the cookies are made without preservatives, and they can easily pronounce items on the ingredient lists that are put on the label for each cookie package. Ginger cookies, as an example, are made from: all purpose flour, sugar, butter, eggs, molasses, soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. As a cautionary note, the labels also say, “Made on same equipment as milk, eggs, nuts.” The labels are made and donated by Sharon Notch.

The cookie project clears nearly $2,000 each year, with $850 coming in on Christmas orders alone. It has allowed for donations to the senior center, the Bertha rescue squad, bundled meal drivers, and Todd County Child Protection. A “dozen cookies a month for a year” has also been a popular local raffle item.

With 101 members, the Eagle Bend Senior Center has a reputation for being extraordinarily active. While there are other senior centers that make donuts for ongoing fundraisers, this may be the only cookie project, or at least, the only cookie project in Todd County. For more information on Treasured Treats or to order cookies, call the senior center at 218-738-4152. If it’s morning, Gladys Judes will answer the phone. Esther Pooler will answer in the afternoon. Don’t you love small towns and real people, um, elves?!

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