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"It's no big deal," Nancy Johnson said lightly.

"Really, it's not," agrees Suzanne Evans. "You just pick a recipe that makes quite a few cookies -- and double it."

Cookie Walk

When: Doors open at 8 a.m. Dec. 7; the walk is from 8:30 to 11 a.m. or until all the cookies are gone

Where: Highlands United Methodist Church, 371 Glasgow Road in Bella Vista

Cost: $12 per can

Information: 855-2277 or Humcbv.com

These women of Highlands United Methodist Church in Bella Vista might seem to be making a molehill out of a mountain. They are among the scores of bakers from the 347-member church who make 20 dozen cookies per person every year for the annual Cookie Walk. The result is more than 10,000 cookies, Johnson said. And last year, the event raised $7,333 for missions, added church member Lori Pinkerton.

Now in its 31st year, the Cookie Walk goes clear back to the founding of the church, according to Pinkerton. Many church members participate in some way, she said, but this particular Monday morning in November, the gathering is made up of United Methodist Women. That church organization hosts the Coffee Shoppe, the Sweet Shoppe, the crafts sale and the "soups to go" selections that are part of the Cookie Walk.

Of course, they make cookies, too. Evans said her specialties are Almond Joy cookies and the famous Neiman Marcus cookies. Johnson tears up, saying she always makes snickerdoodle cookies in memory of her father. And Pinkerton said, "I'm really good at making sugar cookies and sprinkling them with colored sugar."

This year, however, she's thinking about something new -- Ritz crackers with peanut butter in between, dipped in chocolate, perhaps with some candy cane pieces on top.

The women all laugh and talk excitedly about the event, clearly loving both the fellowship and the task at hand. But they turn more serious when asked where the money goes.

To them, "missions" doesn't usually mean people they'll never see on the far side of the world. For the United Methodist Women, missions mean helping women and children in Northwest Arkansas: They give to the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter, the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, the Care and Share thrift store in Gravette, and Bright Futures, a project of the Gravette School District, among other charities.

All three agree that, although Northwest Arkansas looks prosperous, there is plenty of hidden poverty that needs to be addressed. By way of example, Pinkerton explains that the group helps five families in the Gravette schools with everything from gifts for the children to food for a holiday meal.

"There is a lot of unseen homelessness," Johnson said. "And abuse knows no economic boundaries."

The church does stretch its mission field beyond its community, working with the national United Methodist Committee on Relief to create "flood buckets" and back-to-school kits and more, and Pinkerton said members may go to a distribution center in Baldwin, La., to volunteer.

"This church is just so giving," Johnson stops to muse.

Johnson said, when she and her husband moved to Bella Vista in 2003 from Houston, they were always asked two questions by everyone they met: "Where are you from?" and "Do you have a church home?" They intended to "shop around" for a church, she said, but one Sunday at Highlands United Methodist Church, and their decision was made.

"We never went anywhere else," Johnson said.

"In an area like this, where people come from all over, a church has to be not only a biblical and spiritual (place) but also a community center," she said. "It's like the days of 'Little House on the Prairie' when the church was the center of the community. And we were part of that community almost immediately."

Evans said when she and her husband joined three years ago, they were told they could be as busy with church activities as they wanted to be -- and they are.

"There's plenty to do, and I like what they support," she said.

Right now, the focus is the Cookie Walk. Not only must cookies be baked -- and most people do them over the course of two days so they're never frozen -- but the big plastic coffee cans patrons fill with cookies must be covered in festive holiday fabric. On the day of the walk, scores of volunteers will help direct buyers into the fellowship hall to choose their container, then walk through the selections of cookies and fill it.

"It depends on the weather, but we usually sell out," Johnson said. "Usually, everything is gone but the crumbs."

General News on 11/27/2019

Print Headline: Walk the walk

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