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Kelly Kaneshiro, 14, left, a freshman at Kadena High School, and her mother, Arlene, roll out sugar cookie dough. Airi Tanahara, 20, right, a first-year student at Nikkei Business College, pitched in to help. Volunteers baked about 24,000 cookies this week for the annual holiday cookie drive at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa for single servicemembers.
Kelly Kaneshiro, 14, left, a freshman at Kadena High School, and her mother, Arlene, roll out sugar cookie dough. Airi Tanahara, 20, right, a first-year student at Nikkei Business College, pitched in to help. Volunteers baked about 24,000 cookies this week for the annual holiday cookie drive at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa for single servicemembers. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The smell of chocolate kisses and peanut butter lingered in an Air Force service kitchen Thursday night as a dozen women huddled around a table making cookies.

Some were designated cookie rollers, grabbing fistfuls of chocolate chips and sugar cookie dough from bowls to roll into balls and place on metal sheet pans.

Others were decorators, piling M&Ms, sprinkles and other tasty morsels onto the small, dough mounds before they hit the oven.

Since Monday, streams of volunteers like Maria Wolfe have gathered at the kitchen on Kadena Air Base to bake and decorate 24,000 cookies — small tokens of affection to bring a little holiday cheer to single servicemembers.

"I think they’re going to be so excited," said Wolfe, whose husband is an Air Force colonel. "If they knew how many people were involved in the whole process, I think they’d appreciate it even more."

More than 100 volunteers — including Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers, Air Force spouses and high school students — have been working in shifts to bake, decorate and wrap cookies.

This marks the second year for the holiday cookie drive.

Miku Akamine, 18, a first-year student at Nikkei Business College, a vocational school in Okinawa City, said she volunteered to bake as a way to practice her English skills with American counterparts.

"And I like cooking," she said.

The outpouring of community generosity has been amazing, said cookie drive co-coordinator Sheri Fletcher, whose husband is in the Air Force.

Servicemembers, civilians and such agencies as the Army and Air Force Exchange System and United Service Organizations donated more than 600 bags of cookie dough, 14 cases of gingerbread, pounds of butter, ribbons and sheets of cellophane wrap, she said.

The cookies will be stored in a freezer until Dec. 8, when they will be delivered to the base’s singles dormitories by local Boy Scouts and Air Force first sergeants, Fletcher said.

Gingerbread and Hershey kisses should give single servicemembers a taste of home for holidays, Fletcher said.

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