Local at Heart Fights Hunger One Cookie at a Time

Homemade cookies just helped another person in need. Local at Heart’s third annual Cookie Walk was held at Historic Huguenot Street on Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1. 

Historic Huguenot Street worked together with the Reformed Church of New Paltz to host: A Holiday on Huguenot Street & Community Tree Lighting featuring a number of events across the two days. Activities included: the Cookie Walk with Local at Heart, Paper Lantern Light Parade, tree lighting, photos with Santa and much more.

“My favorite part of the event is all the friendly and familiar faces and community,” said New Paltz resident Kristen Zigouras. 

The Misty Mountain Girl Scout Troop helped support Local at Heart, and gained experience toward community service and cooking badges for their troop. SUNY New Paltz Dining Services and Sodexo donated tons of cookies from the on-campus bakery Sweets & Treats.  

Sodexo Marketing Coordinator Rachel Tantillo attended the Empty Bowls event hosted by Local at Heart and loved the meaning behind how they donated the funds to local pantries. Tantillo brought the idea up to her team of Ryan Goodwin, general manager and Danielle Halbert, bakery manager. The bakery made 50 dozen cookies, 20 dozen of which were vegan, and they donated gingerbread houses as well as a platter of holiday cookies to raffle off. 

“Their [Local at Heart’s] ethos aligns with what we’re doing here,” Tantillo said. “We hope we can partner with them every year.”

When Local at Heart Vice President Connie Harkin was young, she attended a cookie walk at her church. Her memories of the event stuck close to her and she thought it was a good idea to make fundraising more fun. The idea was introduced to the Local at Heart board, and the first Cookie Walk was held in December of 2016. 

Craig Shankles, Local at Heart president, and Harkin said the mission of Local at Heart and the Cookie Walk is “to bring community together to raise awareness about local food insecurity and to raise funds to help.”

According to a 2016 study, more than 7,750 families are living below the poverty line in Ulster County. All the proceeds from the Cookie Walk are being donated to food pantries and families in Ulster County who are food-insecure.

Local at Heart’s website says, “Food pantries served a staggering half million meals last year and it’s not enough to meet the need in our area. Hunger is an invisible epidemic and the hungry are not strangers — they are, in fact, all around you.”

The fundraising group helps Family of New Paltz, St. Joseph’s Food Pantry, SUNY New Paltz Student Christian Center Food Pantry, Summer Food Program and Helping Hands Food Pantry of St. Charles Borromeo Church. They have also held an Empty Bowls event for the past few years where people in the community made bowls and participating restaurants gave out free soup. With the donations, they gave to many in need. 

“We [Local at Heart] just completed purchasing a commercial grade refrigerator and freezer, upgraded lighting and enhanced shelving for them,” Harkin said. “It was a major renovation that we worked on with the New Paltz Community Foundation and the George and Katherine Sifre Foundation.”

Many people volunteer and help Local at Heart’s mission. Harkin and Shankles said the Bruderhof Community in Rifton is helping out this year. 

“They are making a gingerbread type of cookie with honey straight from their own beehives,” Harkin and Shankles said. “How fresh and cool is that?”

For more information on hunger in the region, visit the Local at Heart website and click on the local needs tab. To get involved, donations are welcome at http://www.localatheart.org/about/.