Gary Herzig

Herzig

With SUNY Oneonta students home for the semester, hundreds of parents are sending their love in the form of homemade cookies to the local businesses left behind.

Gabbie Brink, the Long Island mother of a second-year SUNY Oneonta student, launched the “Cookies for the Community” campaign after the college announced it was closing its campus for the semester and sending its resident students home amid the recent coronavirus outbreak.

“We really wanted the stores and the community to know that we love them and our kids love them,” Brink said. “It wouldn’t hurt to let them know how we feel.”

Brink enlisted the help of SUNY Oneonta parent and local resident Theresa Munoz to bake and decorate platters of cookies customized for a dozen local businesses and organizations.

First on the list is Sal’s Pizzeria, which has provided an “overwhelmingly positive experience” for many students and their families since the local outbreak began, Brink said. “These families really felt their kindness.”

Platters will also be delivered to the Yellow Deli, Tino’s Pizzeria, the Autumn Cafe, Tiger Asian Cuisine, Latte Lounge, the The Vinyl Music Vault, the Green Toad Bookstore, Applebee’s and Stoneonta, as well as the Oneonta police and fire departments “because God knows we’ve given them a lot of business,” Brink said with a laugh.

Munoz, known as the “Campus Cookie Lady,” said she acts as the de facto mother for dozens of students whose families are far away, bringing them groceries, taking them to the doctor when they’re sick and of course, delivering cookies.

“My job is to help be there for other moms and to help ease their minds,” she said. “Being so far away, especially when it’s the first time, the cord isn’t always cut. Even though they’re in their 20s, they’re still our babies.”

The mothers are part of a network of SUNY Oneonta parents connected by a Facebook group started by Brink last year, before her son went away to school.

The group, which has since grown to 1,900 members, is made up largely of parents from Long Island but includes family members from across the state and around the country, Brink said. “It’s a safe place to ask questions.”

Rachel Estrada, another SUNY Oneonta parent from Long Island, created a line of screenprinted “Coroneonta” T-shirts and face masks and is donating 20% of the proceeds to the city “on behalf of some very tired, very anxious SUNY Oneonta students, parents, friends, and family members, who are very sorry about what’s happening and just need to love to keep from crying,” according to her website, multirachel.com.

The parents’ group raised about $4,000 in support of Oneonta businesses in less than 36 hours, Brink said, “way more than was needed to make cookies.”

The parents will donate $3,500 in excess funds to the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce “to support all the businesses,” Brink said.

“It’s nice to see a bustling downtown,” she said. “I’m sure the kids leaving has taken a little air out of the community.”

The money will be used for a marketing campaign about spreading kindness, as well as entrepreneurial training sessions and programs to support local businesses, which will be open for students to attend, according to Barbara Ann Heegan, president and CEO of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.

“We couldn’t be happier to support our business community and our students and parents as part of an extended community,” Heegean said. “Only great things can continue to happen. I think this is giving our students a deeper appreciation for the entrepreneurial spirit of our business community.”

“It’s heartwarming,” she continued. “This has been a positive note of humanity as we move forward, and it’s going to help spread kindness and compassion throughout the community.”

“We need a smile,” Munoz said. “I hope this turns everyone around to stop pointing fingers. The best way to help people is by making them smile.”

Oneonta’s Survive, then Thrive initiative announced Tuesday the award of more than $105,000 to small local businesses through its COVID-19 Reopening and Recovery grant program.

Thirty-five businesses received up to $3,000 each for the purchase of personal protective equipment and other unanticipated capital expenses brought about by the pandemic, according to a media release.

Funds were provided by the City of Oneonta and the Community Foundation of Otsego County with administrative support from the Future of Oneonta Foundation and the Otsego County Development Corporation.

“Our Survive, then Thrive initiative continues to show how the Oneonta community has come together to overcome this previously unimaginable challenge,” said Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig. “I thank all the organizations and individuals who have helped to make this assistance possible and I applaud our small business owners for their perseverance, can-do attitude, and for the way they have come together in supporting each other.”

Donations for Cookies for the Community can be made at gofundme.com/f/pmc8t-cookies-for-the-community

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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