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Marie Ritschard, 8, and Paul Ritschard, 11, were among 40 volunteers who helped assemble cookie packages for the annual Cookie Caper Tuesday at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Marie Ritschard, 8, and Paul Ritschard, 11, were among 40 volunteers who helped assemble cookie packages for the annual Cookie Caper Tuesday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Marie Ritschard, 8, and Paul Ritschard, 11, were among 40 volunteers who helped assemble cookie packages for the annual Cookie Caper Tuesday at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Marie Ritschard, 8, and Paul Ritschard, 11, were among 40 volunteers who helped assemble cookie packages for the annual Cookie Caper Tuesday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Airman 1st Class Rachel Bateman assembles cookie trays for the annual Cookie Caper at Misawa.
Airman 1st Class Rachel Bateman assembles cookie trays for the annual Cookie Caper at Misawa. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The Girl Scouts donated 18 dozen. Edgren High School and JROTC dropped off almost 1,000. And volunteer Airman 1st Class Rachel Bateman baked more than 100.

The fellowship room in the base chapel on Tuesday smelled like a grandmother’s kitchen, with trays upon trays of homemade cookies and candy spread out on tables.

It’s time for Misawa’s annual Cookie Caper.

Organizers estimate they’ll have about 7,000 cookies to give away this year to single and unaccompanied personnel.

“This is to bring a little bit of holiday cheer to people,” said volunteer Anne Turnbull of the Family Support Center. “Misawa can be kind of a lonely place for some people.”

The Cookie Caper is a massive volunteer effort to deliver cookie trays to about 1,300 single or unaccompanied servicemembers and civilians — living on or off base — who are spending the holidays away from family.

This year’s sponsors are the Family Support Center, American Red Cross, Misawa Officer’s Spouses Club and the Enlisted Community Organization, but those groups rely on base residents to bake cookies.

Units and commands provide a list of their single or unaccompanied members. And the community, Turnbull said, always comes through with plenty of homemade cookies.

“We always sweat it a little bit each year,” she said Tuesday. “We put out word yesterday that we needed about 3,000 more cookies. They’re rolling in” today.

Bateman contributed about nine dozen homemade peanut butter and sugar cookies, even though she, too, is a single airman a long distance from her family in Baltimore.

“I didn’t get cookies last year, so I at least wanted to make sure that other single airmen get them,” she said. Bateman had arrived at Misawa only a few weeks before last year’s Cookie Caper, so her name probably “fell through the cracks,” she said.

“It’s nice,” she said of the cookie drive, because the holiday season “can get lonely.”

Bateman and Airman 1st Class Dionne Bal worked about four hours Tuesday morning setting about six cookies and several pieces of candy on each Styrofoam tray. Other volunteers covered the trays with plastic wrap and organized them into brown bags by unit. Turnbull said unit first sergeants collect the bags and deliver them to the dorms, barracks or work sites.

In all, about 40 volunteers helped assemble cookie packages, Turnbull said. Other base organizations also contributed, she said, noting the Defense Commissary Agency provided the cookie trays, refreshments for volunteers and other supplies.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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