Students treat the troops

Teens send cookies, brownies overseas

A few North Bergen High School students decided two years ago that they would support American troops through baking.
Home Economics Teacher Marlene Sapoff, the moderator for the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club, had read in a newspaper about a South Carolina woman who began baking for the troops during the Gulf War. Through, the woman receives requests from soldiers for cookies and forwards them to organizations and individuals across the country who bake and ship packages to those stationed overseas.
North Bergen’s FCCLA began the endeavor in fall of 2008. Since then, they have sent 1,312 cookies, while Sapoff, who began baking a few years ago, has shipped 37,044.


“It’s a great feeling knowing that we’re doing something.” – Melissa Villafne

The students bake every other Wednesday and normally receive around six requests a month. A teacher donates her time making the dough for them before hand, while they bake, package each cookie, write letters, and ship packages.
Sapoff said that students fundraise to pay for the ingredients and shipping fees. The biggest fundraiser is held at WinterFest. Their face painting in December of 2009 allowed them to raise 300 for the cause. Sapoff said that each package costs around $8.
“I’m not much of a baker at home, as far as cookies go, so we learned how to do that,” said Club President Raquel Murillo. “Stuff like this really makes you realize that these guys are going through really difficult things. It’s something that helps them through it.”

By the dozen

Sapoff said that each package contains approximately six dozen cookies, normally chocolate chip and brownies.
When they began baking, some of the students wondered why they had to send over so many, but Sapoff explained that their goal was to send enough for them to share with their fellow soldiers.
Murillo said that one time, a sergeant wanted to throw a Fourth of July party for his subordinates.
“We had a huge box and we got decorations and we baked cookies,” said Murillo. “We made this big banner. I think that was one of the most exciting shipments we’ve done.”
She said that while her generation was sometimes pinpointed as being too apathetic in their awareness to the world and support to the troops, FCCLA allowed her and like-minded people to find a way to get involved.
“I really love baking and sending it out to the troops and the responses that we get…it’s a great feeling knowing that we’re doing something,” said Secretary Melissa Villafne.

Heartfelt responses

Sapoff and her students have kept a book of cookie requests and emails they have received from soldiers. Some are a simple thank you card, while others have sent them long emails explaining the history of the countries they are in and what their jobs are, as well as photos.
She said that the soldiers thank them on the simple things, like stuffing the boxes with comics and puzzles from newspapers.
“[One soldier wrote,] ‘P.S. I so much enjoy doing the kids’ puzzles’ and you didn’t even think about it; it was just used to stuff the box,” said Sapoff. “What we take for granted sometimes there, in such remote areas, they don’t have any of this and it’s like a touch of home to them.”
United States Air Force Capt. Arron Lasch, stationed in Afghanistan, wrote, “The Girls Scouts of America are huge supporters of the U.S. Military, so those types of cookies can be found ever so often around camp, but homemade cookies…now that was quite the special treat and were greatly appreciated (and quickly devoured)!”
Lasch continued,” That really got me into the holiday spirit, which is sometimes hard to do being so far away from home.”
In another email, Navy Petty Officer Lindsey Bricker thanked the group in advance.
“Our days here are long, and I know that a little piece of home would be much appreciated for some of the guys here,” said Bricher.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at

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