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Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 15:48

St. John’s Lutheran Church ladies recently gathered to bake for this Saturday’s annual cookie walk. 

There’s holiday baking, and then there’s what a group of women at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Port Washington pulls off each year.
Hundreds of dozens of goodies fill the church for the annual cookie walk, drawing dozens of people to peruse the delectables, some of whom line up early, like a Black Friday of cookie sales.
“We have a pretty faithful following that watch for our sale and are usually there before the doors open,” Charlotte Klieve said.
“We’ve had people travel from different parts of Wisconsin,” said Judi Stewart, co-president of the church’s Lutheran Women Missionary League.
Also like Black Friday, the inventory doesn’t last long.
“When I started we had the cookie walk from 9 to 1 and sold out, so we made it from 9 to 12 the next year. Now, we do it from 9 to 11 and practically all our cookies are gone,” said Barb Herman.
Proceeds from the walk used to go to the church’s school, but it closed several years ago. Then, a group of ladies called the “fun raising group” took over the sale. Now, the sale benefits various items for the church.
Port’s Diane Yokes, a former pre-school aide and teacher, has been a participant from the start and heads LWML with Stewart.
Each year, Yokes fields the same question from an inquiring spouse.
“My husband looks at them, ‘Are any of those for us?’” Yokes said, and she always has an answer.
“Only the ones that break when I put the powdered sugar on.”
One element that makes this cookie walk unique is the opportunity to choose which cookies to buy.
“The beauty of our cookie walk is the fact that when people come, we give them a container and we give them gloves, and they get to choose the cookies they want, rather than pre-packaged ones,” said Barb Herman.
That allows for tracking of the hottest goodies.
“We realized that cut-out cookies were flying off the plates, as well as the candied pretzels,” Stewart said.
“One person used to do all the pretzels alone, and it was a lot of work.”
Demand reached the point that LWML has held cookie-baking days the past few years. On one day, cookies are baked, frosted and decorated. On another, pretzels are coated with chocolate.
“The ladies are all very friendly and helpful and work together good as a team,” Yokes said.
Another item was requested a couple of years ago, and the ladies obliged. People want cut-out cookies that aren’t decorated so they can handle the accent work with their families.
Many of those cookies come from a core group of about 15 women.
Yokes couldn’t ballpark how many hours she spends baking.
“My husband would say I’m baking all the time,” she said.
Recipes come from a variety of sources. Yokes has her grandmother’s recipe for white sugar cookies and one for pecan fingers from Trinity Lutheran Freistadt cookbook. Others come from magazines.
Yokes learned to bake early in life — “We were a 4-H family” — and each year likes to try a new recipe. This year, gingerdoodles and snow-capped double chocolate cookies are new ventures.
Yokes said she has made gluten-free cookies and has tried recipes not using milk or eggs, since her granddaughter is allergic to both. The walk also offers goodies for diabetics.
Even those without baking skills find a way to participate. Klieve used to visit her mother in Racine to make cookies.
“Christmas cookies were her thing,” she  said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t pick up  many skills from her.”
This year, Klieve made theme-type cookies such as melted snowmen and molasses cookies decorated like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
“Hopefully, some little kid will say, ‘We have to have a few of those in our box, mama,’” she said.
Herman said she likes to make five or six dozen of a few different kinds.
“I enjoy baking, but secondly, it’s fun to see people come and enjoy what we’ve made. It makes us feel so good,” she said.
A regular following has developed.
“We’ve had some women come from South Milwaukee. It’s a long way to go just to buy a cookie. They come back year after year.”
Annette Fullington of Fredonia has been involved from the beginning, often topping 50 dozen cookies per year for the sale.
“Us ladies in that group have a very, very good time together and we enjoy each other’s company. It makes a big difference when you’re all working toward the same goals.”
Fullington still comes to help during the walk, either greeting or explaining the selection process.
“I still want to be there and contribute,” she said. “I like to be around people.”
Live music and an annual theme add to the cookie-buying ambience. This year, ladies contributed decorations to capture the Nativity theme.
“We certainly think it will help people be in the mood and remember the reason for the season,” Klieve said.
Stewart helps keep the walk a well-powdered machine, holding a wrap-up meeting after each year’s event.
“We just write up our notes of everything we did and things that worked and things we want to improve upon,” she said.
St. John’s 15th annual cookie walk will be held at the church, 217 N. Freeman Drive, Port Washington, from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2. Containers are provided. The cost is $9 per pound.

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