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Scrolling through Facebook one morning in April, middle school English teacher Jeremy Uhrich noticed something unusual: his friend Scott McKenzie showing off his homemade chocolate chip cookies.
“I work at a small college here in Huntingdon and I was furloughed back in April,” McKenzie, 58, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “So instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for myself, I told myself I was going to learn something new every week.”
He continues: “I never made cookies from scratch before, but I made them for the first time and they weren’t half bad! So like everybody in my generation, I had to brag about what I did on Facebook, and Jeremy here put up on Facebook that he had made cookies the same day and he bet his were better than mine.”
Uhrich, 42, challenged his friend to a bake-off. McKenzie accepted and proposed they let some of the frontline heroes in their Huntington, PA community judge the treats as a thank-you for their help during the pandemic.
“We just wanted to let these people know that we care about you, we recognize you and we aren’t forgetting about what you’re doing,” Uhrich tells PEOPLE. “This is just our small way of saying thank you and showing gratitude for what you have been doing and continue to do throughout the pandemic.”
The pair created Cookies for Caregivers, a Facebook group where other residents could volunteer to make treats for first responders and business owners. Since April, more than 100 bakers have joined the group, baking and delivering more than 15,100 snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, cakes and more to workers at local hospitals, grocery stores, fire departments and more.
Two Dads Lead Effort to Bake, Deliver Thousands of Cookies to Frontline Coronavirus Workers
Each week, McKenzie and Uhrich brainstorm a list of workers that could use a sweet pick-me-up, or bakers in the group nominate people. Bakers drop the cookies off at Uhrich’s house, then he and Scott organize and deliver them to the businesses in large containers.
“We’ve seen a lot of smiles and tears during deliveries, people are so appreciative,” Uhrich says.
“It’s been a great way to keep my mind off the pandemic and do something for others,” he says. “Everybody likes a cookie and everybody likes a friend!”
“It’s a good chance to teach the kids about what we’re experiencing and why we’re doing this, why it’s important to show gratitude to the people in our community who have to be brave, get up, go to work and battle this virus every day,” Uhrich says.
McKenzie says they’re planning on continuing the effort for as long as they can.
“There aren’t enough people to thank,” he says. “Kindness doesn’t have an expiration date.”