WALLA WALLA - It was cookies by the thousands served to kids, parents, grandparents and guardians by the hundreds, who on Saturday sat down for tea at the Walla Walla-Columbia Counties School Retirees Association annual Teddy Bear Show and Tea.
"We want to make sure we have something for the kids," veteran cookie baker Shirley Fouts said, as she slaved in a kitchen to fix trays of delectables, much to the delight of little girls like 7-year-old Hannah
And to give proof to her level of satisfaction, Hannah - after having sat through the first course of fruit and second course of sandwiches - sat up high in her chair as the third course arrived.
A tray of cookies was set before her party. The little girl with straight light brown hair reached across, took and bit a chocolate cake ball made by Fouts. Immediately hunched over, as natural as a knee jerk reaction, she looked as if she was trying to both hug and guard the precious desert. And though her face was half covered by her hair as she leaned over her prize, a grin was still clearly visible as she looked over and smiled at her grandmother, Sally.
"The smiles," Sally said, making it clear in two words what she gets out of taking Hannah and her older sister, 9-year-old Sage, to the Teddy Bear Show and Teas.
"It is such a wonderful event that gets people together," the grandmother added. But later she suggested, "I think they should do the chocolate first. You want to have room for certain things."
Back in the kitchen, Fouts explained that every year she and close to two dozen volunteers - most with the association - bake more than 100 dozen batches of chocolate chip, Russian tea cakes, Snicker-doodles, cherry kisses, apricot tarts, lemon bars, strawberry cookies, coconut cookies and more.
"I made six dozen little tea cakes. I made them Thursday and I frosted them last night around 11 o'clock ... none of them are really hard to make," Fouts said.
She explained that having served more than 20 years of as the director of food services for Walla Walla Public Schools, she has plenty of commercial kitchen experience.
"If you worked in food service, there are a lot of things that are a lot easier than you would think," she added.
So from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the St. Francis Social Hall, volunteers, most of them retired teachers and school district food service workers, donated their services to bring smiles. The volunteer bakers even chipped in their own money to pay for the chocolate chips and other ingredients to make all those cookies.
"We have lots of cookies. We are probably going to have cookies left over," said association volunteer Sandi Swanson.
By the end of the tea, more than 250 people were served platters of fruit, sandwiches and cookies, with a finishing touch of a morsel of chocolate.
The goal was to raise more than $1,500 for college scholarships for students seeking careers in education. But for sisters like Sabrina, 12, Audrey, 8, and Kylee, 2, it was all about cookies and tea.
"The kids like having tea parties at home," their mother, Jennifer, explained. "And a grown-up one (tea party) where actually the party is somewhere else, that is fun," she added.
A little later the first tray of cookies was placed in front of Jennifer's three daughters. The older two respectfully took one at a time. But 2-year-old Kylee, with gusto, grabbed a chocolate tea cake and a pecan cookie.
In the end, about 10 dozen of the original 100 dozen cookies were left over.
"We freeze them and use them for our goodie bag (fundraiser). We don't waste anything," Fouts said.
Even the trash bag of crust cutting found good use, Swanson said, explaining that what kids traditionally avoid eating went to a farmer as a treat for his hens.