Daughters of Isabella

Approximately 300 pounds of flour, 400 ounces of oil, 100 pounds of shortening, 250 pounds of sugar, 140 pounds of brown sugar;

Fourteen pounds of powdered sugar, seven pounds of baking soda, 127 pounds of butter, 972 eggs, 102 pounds of chocolate chips, 45 pounds of peanut butter, 1 1/2 pounds of cinnamon, 40 pounds of oatmeal and 35 pounds of raisins.

That’s just a portion of the ingredient list for the Daughters of Isabella’s annual cookie bake sale — the circle’s largest fundraiser each year.

Daughters of Isabella is an international Catholic ladies organization. It’s not affiliated with any single church, rather, the group’s approximately 170 members attend churches all throughout the county.

The ladies make an average of more than 1,200 dozen cookies each year, selling them for $4 a dozen to church members, the community, friends and family.

“It’s hard work, but it pays off,” said Jane VanLeer, one of this year’s “Cookie Bake Queens.”

Senior LifeTimes sat down with several past queens to find out how the mass production is made into a success each year. This included Brenda Hoelscher, Jo Noelker, Jane VanLeer, Mary Jo Wilding and Bonnie Ennis.

Each of the ladies donned an apron with “Cookie Bake Queen” embroidered on it, along with the year they led the charge and how many dozen cookies were baked.

Five varieties of cookies are offered: chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, sugar, peanut butter and oatmeal raisin.

Recipes are tried and true, with most of them being a member’s family recipe. The sugar cookie recipe was passed down from Ennis’ mother, who also was in the Daughters of Isabella.

Chocolate chip holds the title for “most popular” cookie, but the ladies each have their own favorite.

Along with Jane VanLeer, Cookie Queens this year include her daughters, Jessica Haynes and Jan VanLeer. The VanLeers hope to make 8,000 dozen cookies during their five-year reign.

Next year, the baton will be passed to Lynn Lottmann and Ruth Klenke.

Time Line

The sale is carefully orchestrated. Early preparations typically gets underway in September with organizing lists and doing behind the scenes work.

At the November monthly meeting, the committee accepts ingredient donations from members. Any donations help offset the cost to the club.

Several ladies pass out order forms at their place of employment, as well as to family and friends. Churches post the information in their bulletins, and the ladies even request that the information be printed in The Missourian.

Orders are due about the third week of November.

Volunteers meet at Immaculate Conception, where the cookies are baked and the sale is held, the Wednesday before the sale to premix the dry ingredients, then again on Friday to make the dough that has to be refrigerated overnight.

On Friday evening, Immaculate Conception still has aftercare children when the ladies arrive.

“The kids always ask for cookies and we always let them have a few,” Ennis said.

First thing Saturday morning, the baking begins.

It takes at least 40 ladies to prepare and bake the cookies, plus others to take orders and many who donate supplies to help maximize the group’s profit.

Additionally, students in need of community service hours volunteer their time to help pack the cookies for the pickup.

Immaculate Conception Church donates the use of the kitchen.

“Without the cooperation of the parish, church and school, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Hoelscher said.

“And we appreciate the community support,” Wilding added.

After the cookies are cooled, they have to be packaged for pickup the following day, the first Sunday in December.

“It takes everybody to succeed,” VanLeer said. “It isn’t just the leaders. It takes everybody.”

Wilding said the group can find something for everybody to do, from packing to sorting and even labeling boxes.

Any cookies that are not sold on pickup day are delivered to the fire station, police station, ambulance office and Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

History

The first year for the cookie sale was in 2005. The idea was cooked up by Brenda Hoelscher and Bonnie Ennis and it was a huge success, with 800 dozen cookies ordered.

The ladies did most of the work at the home of a member, but quickly found a bigger space to accommodate the large group of helpers.

Since then, the sale has only grown, with 1,566 dozen cookies ordered last year.

“It’s grown through word of mouth,” VanLeer said. “We have a lot of people who will call us back every year and say ‘where’s my order form?’”

Last year, the group raised more than $5,000, which is used for many community projects, including purchasing Bibles for sixth-grade students at Immaculate Conception School, dinner auctions, quilt donations, Union High School’s Project Graduation, Sermon on the Mount, the recent homeless simulation hosted by Union High School student Josie Arens, the food pantry, the eighth-grade Pro-Life trip, Pregnancy Assistance Center, Franklin County Area United Way and other community projects and organizations.

Making Memories

The DOI mission is simple — Unity, Friendship, Charity.

The ladies said their bake sale embodies the mission, as well as provides camaraderie and creates good friendships.

Some lessons the group has learned the hard way. But now, the tradition happens with very few glitches each year.

The first year, Brenda recalled refrigerating the cookie dough only to discover that the chocolate chip cookie dough was ruined.

“I would send them out and either they weren’t done or, if we baked them too long, they burned on the bottom,” she explained. “What we found out was we shouldn’t cool them.”

Three of the doughs require chilling before they’re baked, so the ladies make the chocolate chip cookie dough Saturday morning.

“You can’t sell bad cookies!” they said, all laughing at the memories from those early years.

The peanut butter cookies are made last, to keep them separate from others in case people have peanut allergies.

“Our home economics teachers would be proud of us,” Ennis said.

Unless people pre-order, there are no guarantees that they will get their hands on the cookies. But there are always a few extra dozen baked each year for sale during pickup. This year, pickup is Sunday, Dec. 3, from 8 a.m. to noon at Immaculate Conception’s Parish Center.