SMALL BITES: Love in a box

EDIBLE CHRISTMAS CARD: Betty Sharpless of Loving Food Resources, left, and Jeff Boss of Ace Hardware North conspire through their annual cookie swap to make the holidays a little sweeter for some local people in need. Courtesy of Loving Food Resources

Betty Sharpless drives a van adorned with flowers, an “Outrageous Older Woman” bumper sticker and a red kayak perched on top. She’s one of those instantly likable people who emanates charisma, warmth and welcome.

Twenty years ago, Sharpless cooked up the idea of a cookie party to benefit clients of Loving Food Resources, and she’s spearheaded the annual event ever since. The volunteer-run food pantry serves people living with HIV/AIDS or utliizing in-home hospice care; it currently has 225 clients. That means filling 225 boxes with homemade cookies — or, as Sharpless puts it, “love in a box.”

Contributors will gather Friday, Dec. 20, at Kenilworth Presbyterian Church to fill boxes with sugary donations. The nonprofit asks each participant to bring in 48 homemade cookies or bars, plus some extras on a plate to share with their fellow donors. There’ll be plenty of milk, coffee and a bustling, festive atmosphere, says Sharpless, noting, “The kids kind of freak out from seeing so many cookies.”

The event has become embedded in many local families’ holiday traditions.

“People will host their own cookie parties, then bring them in to us,” says Sharpless. “There’s one household that begins baking sugar cookies to freeze in October, and spends late November and December decorating them.”

Every year, she confesses, she worries that nobody will show up, though in two decades that’s never happened. “Even when there was a blizzard and we were snowed in at the church, people came on foot to bring in their cookies,” Sharpless recalls.

The recipients, she continues, “just love it: These are not people who eat healthy, organic, gluten-free diets. They need the calories.”

“We’re requesting homemade cookies, not store-bought. It’s part of the love we send home with them,” Sharpless says.

Those wishing to participate can bring their cookies to the party 6-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, at Kenilworth Presbyterian Church, 123 Kenilworth Road, or drop off cookies at Ace Hardwares North Asheville location on Merrimon Avenue anytime that day.

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