Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The "Rose Hill Cookie Lady"

Grandmother Sends 30,000 Cookies Overseas
By Staff Sgt. Kristine Dreyer/22nd Air Refueling Wing Public AffairsMCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas, Sept. 28, 2005 -

Three Airmen received some “sweet” support from the “Rose Hill Cookie Lady” while they were deployed.

Since Feb. 5, Merry Debbrecht, nicknamed the Rose Hill Cookie Lady, has baked more than 30,000 cookies for deployed troops all over the world.

Mrs. Debbrecht’s baking project began after her grandson, Army Private 1st Class Andrew Webb, deployed overseas.“As soon as I knew my grandson was going, I started baking,” she said.

But supporting just her grandson wasn’t enough. What really sparked her baking drive was her grandson’s graduation at Fort Hood, Texas. Unable to attend the ceremony, she asked her son, Mike, to tell her every detail. As he told her about the ceremony, he mentioned how Soldiers celebrated with their family. But at her grandson’s ceremony, one lonely Soldier stood alone on the field with no family.

“That just broke my heart,” she said. “And I realized that there are others out there deployed overseas with no family or whose family can’t afford to send them things from home. I just couldn’t stand the thought of one our Soldiers not getting at least something from home.”

At first, she counted every Soldier in the pictures her grandson would send her. Her grandson always told her that deployed troops share everything, so she always sent enough cookies for everyone.

But she wanted to do even more.

To expand her cookie mission, she contacted and joined forces with the original Cookie Lady, Jeanette Cram from South Carolina. Mrs. Cram began baking cookies for deployed troops in 1990 and to date has sent more than 82,700 cookies.

Now Mrs. Debbrecht bakes for five to six hours every day serving up a minimum of 20 dozen cookies by day’s end. Her cookie-support mission has now grown so large she has recruited two additional volunteers, one in Wichita, Kan., and one in Haysville, Kan., to help with the baking.

With more than a dozen different recipes, the Rose Hill Cookie Lady ensures each person receives a variety of cookies. For example, because of the summer heat, chocolate chip cookies are not sent until the weather cools down. But she has found an alternative to meet the needs of the troops whose favorite cookie seems to be chocolate chip.

“I’ll make the cookie and substitute chocolate chips with M&Ms, and they survive (through the mail,)” said Mrs. Debbrecht. “When it gets cooler, I will send chocolate chips (again.)”

But for those troops who just can’t wait, she has found another chocolate chip alternative.

“I (use) carob chips for those who are allergic to chocolate,” said Mrs. Debbrecht. “It looks and tastes like chocolate, and it makes it through the mail without melting.”

And it seems that the Rose Hill Cookie Lady’s labor of love has been appreciated on the deployed front.

“I think it really boosted their morale,” said Suzanne Jones who requested a package be sent to her husband, Master Sgt. Keith Jones, and his deployed co-workers in Southeast Asia. “It lets them know people really appreciate what they do over there.”

“It’s a great feeling to us when people send care packages,” added Sergeant Jones.

Not only did Sergeant Jones and his group receive 50 dozen M&M cookies, the care package also included chips and candy.

The little extras don’t seem to affect Mrs. Debbrecht’s operation. In fact, her whole cookie project is self-funded. She sells her homemade cookies at a local Rose Hill store to help fund her project. The cost for her mission averages about $200 a week, which includes ingredients and postage.

Although showing her support for the troops may not be cheap, the troops pay Mrs. Debbrecht back with friendly thank you cards. And, while she “just loves every single picture, post card, letter and e-mail,” that is not why she bakes and sends her cookies.

“I want to do this,” Mrs. Debbrecht said. “They take care of our country. If I can provide a bright spot in the day of just one Soldier, I’ll do whatever I can do -- they deserve it.” (Senior Airman Matthew Rosine contributed to this story)

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