Cookies fit for a hero: B’nai Amoona brings holiday to emergency workers


On Christmas Day, Mark Dana and about 80 families from Congregation B’nai Amoona were busy bringing holiday cheer to local firefighters and police officers.

This was the sixth annual “Holiday Cookies for Heroes” drive, which Dana, vice president of B’nai Amoona, has helped organized from the start.

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The program started in 2002, in part because of a desire to show support for law enforcement and firefighters after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

“We want to recognize the firemen and police officers — people who are required to work on holidays. We thought bringing cookies and holiday treats would be a nice gesture,” he said.

The idea for the program came from Phyllis Cantor, social action chair, who knew of a similar program going on at a congregation in Kansas City, although on a much smaller scale.

“I wanted to involve people in the congregation with our local police and firefighters, who help protect us every day,” Cantor said.

“The first year was absolutely phenomenal,” Cantor said. “There was a blizzard, with ice underneath the snow…but that morning, every single person who had signed up showed up to bring and deliver cookies.”

So ever since that Christmas in 2002, the congregation has been coming together to bake or buy cookies and then distribute them to fire and police stations.

Dana said each year, they set up three locations — houses of volunteers, one in Chesterfield, one in Creve Coeur, and one in University City — where people can drop off baked goods, which are packed in cookie boxes donated by Dierberg’s, and then delivered to firehouses and police stations.

Dana said this year, 80 families took part in baking or buying between 300 and 350 dozen cookies and delivering them to close to 80 fire departments and police stations.

Cantor said that Dana has been the driving force in organizing the annual cookie drives.

“Without him, I don’t know what we would do,” she said.

Cantor said that while the firefighters and police officers appreciate the holiday delivery, they are not the only ones who benefit. Besides the satisfaction of helping law enforcement and fire department personnel, families often find that children often get impromptu tours of the fire stations and police stations they visit.

“It’s a great experience for the kids,” she said. “It is really a win-win project that we are very, very proud of,” she said.

Deborah Weinstein, a new member of B’nai Amoona who helped with the cookie effort this year, said she was looking for tikkun olam programs that she and her family could take part in. Weinstein designed the brochures sent out to congregants this year about the program, and she baked cookies with her daughters for the effort.

She said the idea behind the annual cookie drive resonated with her.

“The idea is that it is our way of saying, ‘While we might not celebrate Christmas, it’s a time of year where peace and love should reign supreme and since you work so hard for us, this is our way of saying thank you,'” Weinstein said.