Fun, festive and tasty, these parties show the community you care.
Santa’s not the only firm believer in the power of cookies. Friends throughout North America and beyond are spreading hope and happiness by the batch, with help from Lydia Walshin’s nonprofit organization that’s marking its 10th holiday season.
“Drop In & Decorate gets friends and families together to make and decorate cookies, and then connects them with community agencies providing food and shelter to people in need,” says founder Lydia from Glocester, Rhode Island. “Building bridges between people is what we’re all about. And we do it with cookies.”
Not that she intended to start a movement the day she invited a few friends over to decorate cookies. “We got carried away and ended up with so many we couldn’t eat them all,” she recalls. “So I contacted a family emergency center in our neighborhood and asked if they’d like us to bring over some cookies. “I’m sure they expected something packaged from the supermarket. When we came with boxes filled with homemade, individually wrapped cookies, they were thrilled! My friends were just as excited and asked, ‘Can we do this again?’ That was my aha moment.”
A food writer and blogger, Lydia asked her followers to spread the word—and they have. Drop In & Decorate events have been held in 37 states and as far away as Germany and Japan.
A Recipe for Helping
Thanks to the popular program, 40,000 cookies have been donated to 180 agencies, including food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, rescue missions and senior centers. “To make participating easy, we put everything you need to know on our website, dropinanddecorate.org,” Lydia says. “It shows how to host a decorating party, where to find supplies, how and where to donate cookies. It even recommends recipes.
“We’ve found sugar cookies and colorful icing work well. It’s like creating a painting on an edible canvas. But feel free to go with gingerbread or chocolate cookies, sprinkles or candy toppings. The important thing is having fun in the process.” Among the volunteers are religious groups, Scout troops, co-workers and neighborhood associations. What’s Cooking for Kids, a children’s cooking school in the San Francisco area, took on the project last year; owner Michelle Stern says it taught her young cookie rookies an invaluable lesson.
“The 20 kids who participated really felt good about lifting people’s spirits with something they took time to make,” she says, remembering the welcome they received on delivery day at a San Rafael shelter. “I get a total rush when I find a project that teaches kids how to be contributing members of society by helping others.” The program really heats up during the holidays, but the parties and cookies spread cheer throughout the year, too—no special occasion needed.
“To me, Drop In & Decorate is like double-acting baking powder that activates once with liquid and again when it’s heated in the oven,” Lydia says. “Our cookies work twice, too: first when you have a great time with friends and second when you donate your treats and see the smiles they bring.”
Host a cookie decorating party of your own with more delicious ideas from Drop In & Decorate.