Sewickley church volunteers bake, deliver cookies

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

When Eric Theis got his plate of cookies from St. Stephen's Church members, he sat down right away and ate one, and not long after, he ate another.

“Mmmmm, these are so good,” said Theis, complimenting two church members, who, along with others in their Anchor group, had just made 20 dozen cookies to deliver to shut-ins.

“I'm going to make a pig out of myself,” said Theis, 79. “I'm the original Cookie Monster!”

He joked that the women should come by every week with cookies.

Charlie Kelly, 13 months, also “made” and handed Theis a Christmas card.

His mother, Amy, who grew up in Sewickley and now lives in Coraopolis, joined Candice Biernesser of Sewickley on a visit to Theis and his wife, Laura.

The Theis home was one of eight that members of the Anchor group for church members in their 20s and 30s visited with cookies on a Saturday earlier this month.

Kelly and Biernesser also stopped by with cookies and chatted with Frances Munizza, 80, who told them Christmas cookies are something different for her.

She never married or had children and never baked cookies, she said. When she was growing up in Sewickley, her mother made “wonderful” bread.

But there were no cookies or pies because Munizza said her mother “didn't have much schooling,” so she couldn't read recipes.

Munizza said she plans to dip the cookies in her tea for breakfast and thought the women were nice to bring the cookies. She also said it was a nice treat to meet “cute” Charlie.

Steve Palmer, pastoral assistant and young adult leader who heads the Anchor group for the young adults, said the group had planned to bake about 10 dozen cookies, but they found out they had enough ingredients to make 20 dozen.

That meant that about a dozen of the members' children, ages 13 months to 5 years old, who were being entertained in another room while the adults baked, got to nibble on some of the chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies.

They also helped decorate some of the cookies and make Christmas cards to be delivered with the cookies.

Natalie Bezeck of Sewickley said the idea for the cookie-baking event began when the group was trying to think of something “family friendly” to do as a service project.

“We're usually raking or doing construction-type things. So, we thought, ‘what is something we can do at the church and then take out into the community so that more people from the group can participate?” she said.

“This also is something that helps us bridge the gap between the elderly and the young adults for an inter-generational connection.”

About six volunteers help Palmer run the Anchor group, which many times splits into two groups — those in their 20s who aren't married, don't have children and attend more the group's activities outside the church and older members with children, who mostly meet at each other's homes and the church.

Members participate in community-service activities together and about three to four other activities each month, meeting in small groups and participating in Bible studies and support groups.

About three or four dozen members regularly participate in the various activities, which can include parties, cookouts, guest speakers or dining out.

Recently, members and some of the church's youth participated in a “bake-and-rake” event, which consisted of delivering cookies to businesses and raking leaves.

Some also participated in a mission trip to Clarksburg, W.Va., to work in a city mission for the day, remodeling a classroom and staining a fence.

Members plan to do Christmas caroling in December at Caring Heights retirement home in Coraopolis and each month participate in an Angelican candlelit worship service, named Evensong.

Palmer said the group, which was created about four years ago, was named Anchor because “Jesus is our anchor as hope and security in an uncertain world.”

Mary Kauffman, 4, daughter of Christina Kauffman of Ambridge, was putting lots of icing and dough in her mouth while she helped to decorate the cookies.

She told the others, “When me and my mom make cookies, she said we have to try them to make sure they're good.”

Members assured her that was an important step in the process.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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