Cookie Walk at Ukrainian Orthodox church in Carnegie offers sweet spot for holiday treats
Dedicated parishioners of St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been preparing since September for the 14th annual Cookie Walk, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at the church. The St. Matrona Sisterhood of the church meets every Wednesday to bake cookies from scratch. Last year, there were 87 varieties available for sale, co-chair Alexis Sawchuk said.
“Our customers tell us that they know of cookies that they don't remember how to bake anymore,” Sawchuck said. “They were part of a family tradition at one time, and now they come to us get a taste of years gone by. We get a lot of younger people because they don't have the time to put together this type of collection in time for Christmas.
“People always remark to us, ‘Oh my, this is just like grandma used to make.' That gives us the most pleasure. We love to keep traditions going.”
A majority of the cookies are old Ukrainian recipes, although many other ethnic communities and religions are represented, such as Jewish and Polish. There also is a growing gluten-free selection.
“Those are getting really popular,” Sawchuk said.
The sisterhood is made up of 10 members of the church. A dozen other parishioners bake cookies in their homes and donate them.
The Cookie Walk began in 2004 as a way to raise money after flooding from Hurricane Ivan ruined the basement of the church at 200 Mansfield Blvd. Sawchuck said the kitchen was wiped out and the ovens were unable to function properly.
Proceeds still are used for general church upkeep, but St. Peter and St. Paul also donates a portion to help a charity. The church has worked with autism and cancer organizations, and last year it donated some of the proceeds to a child from neighboring Holy Trinity Ukranian Catholic Church. This year, some funds might be donated to an orphanage or seminary in Ukraine.
Many visitors to the Cookie Walk arrive before the doors open at 10 a.m. The event begins in the church's upper hall, where refreshments are available. Participants get a number and are escorted 15 at a time downstairs to walk through and pick cookies.
“Nothing is prepackaged and they make up their own assortment,” said Sawchuk, who works with fellow co-chair Sherri Walawski.
The cost for the cookies is $9 a pound. The price and personal touch is what keeps the number of participants growing each year.
“That's what everybody says,” Sawchuk said. “We get a lot of compliments about how organized we are. It's our passion. Our neighbors in Carnegie have thanked us because we get people coming in from outside the community. After they get their cookies, they want to walk the streets and visit the shops and diners. It helps give a spark to Carnegie this time of the year.
Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek called the event the “biggest and best in our area.”
Matthew Peaslee is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.