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Towson High School student’s cookie project offers recipe for reaching out to others

Connection might be the key to resilience in tough times. Early pandemic quarantine made that clear to Towson High School senior Elise Chang. “It was hard being isolated from my friends, but I still had an amazing support system of people in my life and wanted others to feel that love as well.”

Elise began to spread the love and support by sending out cookie care packages to 20 of her friends in December, safely baking and delivering sweet treats to friends in Stoneleigh, Rodgers Forge, Lutherville and Owings Mills. Her friends were so touched by this pure act of kindness that Elise was inspired to take it further and extend the cookie care package joy throughout her whole Anneslie neighborhood. The “Tough Cookie” service project was thereby launched.

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Each month, Elise drops off small surprise cookie packages to 18 to 20 houses in the community. “The recipients of my cookies are people I know and don’t know. I’m trying to branch out and meet neighbors I’m unfamiliar with,” she says. A short letter accompanying the packages introduces Elise to the recipients and explains her intentions.

Elise Chang with an example of one of the “Tough Cookie” care packages she has created to connect with friends and neighbors in a time of isolation. Photo by Cheryl Chang. - Original Credit: HANDOUT
Elise Chang with an example of one of the “Tough Cookie” care packages she has created to connect with friends and neighbors in a time of isolation. Photo by Cheryl Chang. - Original Credit: HANDOUT (Cheryl Chang / HANDOUT)

Spreading kindness in the community is one goal of the project, and Elise hopes that her thoughtful efforts will encourage people to pay it forward with their own small acts of kindness with family, friends, neighbors and strangers.

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“The other goal is to make connections with my neighborhood, and it’s going well!” Elise has a little mailbox outside of her house should the recipient choose to let her know what they thought of their surprise, and she delights in the responses. “A child sent me a cute letter and a painted rock as a thank you for the cookies. She also said she’d pay forward the kindness. I’ve received letters and notes from children and adults, from neighbors and anonymous writers. I even received a request to make a batch of cookies for a child that had undergone brain surgery.”

Elise Chang ready to head out on a delivery mission for her “Tough Cookie” service project. Photo by Cheryl Chang.
Elise Chang ready to head out on a delivery mission for her “Tough Cookie” service project. Photo by Cheryl Chang. (Cheryl Chang / HANDOUT)

The cookie of choice for the packages is most often chocolate chip. “People really seem to enjoy them, and I have fun baking them. I use the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. My mom baked them all the time when I was younger and it’s my favorite now.” Elise includes an ingredient list on the packages and precautionary information for people who may have food allergies. The homemade classic comfort food and sincere gesture of encouragement has been well appreciated.

“I’ve connected with more people than I could have imagined. I’ve started doing more random acts of kindness throughout the days. This world is always in need of more kindness,” Elise says. “Whether it’s smiling at someone or giving away cookies, our actions hold much more meaning than we think. I feel hopeful about the future, regardless of what happens. I’ve seen how resilient kindness is in the face of a crazy, hectic world. At the end of the day, we’re all tough cookies.”

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