CHATHAM – There's no stopping the Cookie Express.
The annual holiday event sponsored by the First Congregational Church, which stops at the Chatham Congregational Church this Saturday, Dec. 14, has been chugging along for many years, perhaps two or three decades, first as part of a church Christmas fair, and on its own for at least the past 15 years. What's crystal clear, however, is that its ongoing popularity has as much to do with the fun and community it fosters as the sugary treats it offers for sale.
“It's fun, it's really fun,” said Alison Kaar, head of the church's missions committee, which runs the event. “There's something a little magical about it. And of course you end up with cookies.”
Dozens and dozens of cookies, baked by volunteers, ranging from teens to seniors, who create hundreds of pounds of goodies ranging from fun and elaborate to plain and simple. It can get pretty competitive, Kaar allowed, but it's all in the spirit of fun.
“There are different cookies for different tastes,” she said. “They're all delicious.”
The sale opens at 8:30 a.m., and cookie lovers are urged to arrive early for the best selection. Volunteers continue to replenish the stocks until they run out, which usually happens within a few hours. Grab a box, stuff it with cookies, and check out, paying $13 for each pound of home-baked sugary goodness.
“It's a pretty good deal,” Kaar noted. Last year, about 275 pounds of cookies were sold.
And the funds raised go toward a good cause. This year's proceeds will be dedicated to the Harwich Economical Council for the Homeless stabilization fund, which helps keep local folks in their homes; and Meds and Food for Kids, which helps meet the nutritional needs of severely malnourished babies, children and pregnant women in Haiti.
“We're indulging ourselves, but we're also saving lives,” said Kaar.
Singling out the most popular type of cookie was “a tough one,” she said. Many people put a lot of effort into decorating their cookies, and those often sell well.
“But there's quite a range,” she said. “That's part of the appeal of the event. I think it's the diversity of offerings that make it so popular.”
Kaar said she starts recruiting volunteers for the Cookie Express shortly after the annual pumpkin patch fundraiser ends, around the beginning of November. Many church members expect and look forward to the event.
“When I say the cookies are coming, a laugh goes through the congregation,” she said. A group of volunteers help set up decorations, hang posters and set up and stock the cookie tables.
Anyone who's driven downtown lately has seen that construction has begun on the Old Harbor Road side of the church, renovations designed to coincide with the church's 300th anniversary next year. The work won't interfere with the sale, Kaar said. While the small parking area on that side of the church is closed, volunteers will help direct cookie lovers to parking behind the Orpheum Theater.
“We are open for business,” she emphasized, adding that many people return to the event year after year, creating an endearing holiday tradition.
While most of the cookies are baked by church members, Kaar allowed that there is one ringer: Chatham Bakery is donating some “professional” cookies, “but other than that, 98 percent are home-baked,” she said.