Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies Finds Tasty Way to Support Degage’s Open Door Women’s Center

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Degage Pauls Moms Cookies Cutline No. 1(l to r) Kristie Newkirk, Calvin College intern Meghan Bogema and Karen Petchaucr work together selling cookies at the Rockford Farmers Market. On Saturday mornings, Kristie Newkirk and Karen Petchaucr stand underneath a canopy along with Calvin College intern Meghan Bogema at the Rockford Farmers Market selling what is arguably some of the tastiest homemade cookies in West Michigan.

If you're calorie-counting, these hefty cookies are not for you. But if you don't mind indulging your taste buds, you will not regret munching on cookies with hard-to-resist flavors that include peanut butter chocolate ganache, salted caramel chocolate chunk, lemon dream (in the summer) and oatmeal berry (in the fall), molasses ginger and mint meltaways. The cookies are sold four to a package for $6. For June and July alone that translates into selling $5,000 worth of cookies.

But it gets better.

If you want to help make a difference for women whose lives were once in a freefall turmoil, then by all means indulge in these flavorsome delights known as Pauls' Moms' Cookies, so named after co-founders' Cindy Knape and Chris Mason's sons, both of whom share the same first name.

Proceeds benefit Open Door Women's Center

Newkirk and Petchaucr have known each other for four years. At different times in their lives, they ended up at Degage Ministries' Open Door Women's Center, one of several Degage ministries located at 144 South Division Avenue in the Heartside district of downtown Grand Rapids. Open Door Women's Center provides shelter for women whose lives are in a crisis and they need much more than three hots and a cot to regain their footing in life.

Degage Pauls Moms Cookies Cutline No. 2Karen Petchaucr cuts cookie samples.Pauls' Moms' Cookies accomplishes more than raising funds for Open Door.

Tuesday mornings, Knape, Mason, Newkirk and Petchaucr and 10 or so other women from Open Door meet at Trinity United Methodist at 1100 Lake Drive SE and make the batter that will transform into a weekly average of 800-plus cookies that will be sold at the Rockford Farmers Market. Special orders also are accepted. For details to go

"We make the dough, bake them and package them," said Knape. "They're not low calories because if you're going to make a cookie, make it a good one. 'Making a difference one cookie at a time' is our motto.

Degage Pauls Moms Cookies Cutline No. 3Cookies are sold four to a package for $6."The partnership with Degage has just amazing," Knape continued. "We're now making a difference not only with the money that is raised but also giving to the women (at Open Door) who I think are in very positive environment, including the days they make cookies. There's a lot of laughter and joy."

Newkirk and Petchaucr agree with Knape.

"I like getting out and working with different people," said Petchaucr. "I really enjoy the farmer's market and being in the background baking."

"Getting out in the public more is good for me because I have an anxiety problem," said Newkirk. "It helps me to get control a little better. And I love to cook. I have the experience. I used to work in a bakery and make donuts. I've worked in retail, too."

Safe Christian environment

Degage Pauls Moms Cookies Cutline No. 4There’s more than one flavor to tickle taste buds.Open Door Women's Center provides up to 40 women at a time with a safe Christian environment in their time of need, said Degage executive director Marge Palmerlee. Some, but not all, were previously homeless.

From there, the ministry helps them find transitional and permanent housing, job training and support for life-controlling challenges such as alcoholism. For some of the women, that means working as volunteers for Pauls' Moms' Cookies. Petchaucr and Newkirk are paid for their work.

"Often times when someone is homeless, there is feelings of shame and rejection," Palmerlee said. "That really has a negative impact on how they see themselves. We offer these connections and opportunities that goes a long ways to see who they are in Christ so they value themselves."

Not alone in the journey

For many of the women who find their way at Open Door Women's Center, it's important to provide them with a sense a community while they're residents at Degage and when they are no longer residents, Palmerlee said.

"Our main goal for the cookies is reflect the love of Christ and build relationships with the women," Palmerlee said. "We have found when the women do get out on their own, they end up feeling isolated and often times, tend to revert back to negative behaviors like homelessness. So in June, we hired someone for after-care who follows up with the women and makes sure they are feeling connected to the community so they don't feel they're making the journey alone."

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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