Wednesdays are special days at Guardian Family Services, a shelter for victims of domestic violence and homeless women and children in Metropolis, Illinois.
That's the day residents can enjoy the homemade goodness of fresh muffins, brownies or other baked items from Rita Cotten, affectionately known as "The Goodie Lady."
Rita has been baking goodies for the residents every Wednesday for more than five years—in fact, she has never missed a week, says Rita Gower, the shelter's program director.
"She's a wonderful person. She came through even when we had so much snow that the Post Office closed and even on the weeks that her husband was in the hospital. This proves to me she is a loyal and dependable friend of the shelter."
Rita Cotten started her weekly deliveries when her employer introduced a program that encouraged staff members to volunteer in the community by cleaning up
the riverfront, rebuilding homes and various other projects.
"I have arthritis and carpal tunnel in my hands, so I couldn't participate in those efforts," Rita explains. But she wanted to do something, and she knew about the shelter's mission.
"I've never been in that situation but I knew these people needed some tender loving care," Rita says. So she turned her love of baking into a sweet delivery for the women and children who might be staying there.
"If my little contribution makes them happy, even for a moment, then it's worth it," she says.
Rita's contribution might be two or three dozen muffins, four dozen cookies or a pan of super-rich brownies, all of which get rave reviews from the residents. Many of the recipes she uses were handed down from her mom, while others she found in magazines or were shared by friends.
"I have gotten some of the most wonderful thank-you letters and cards from these ladies," Rita says. "It makes you want to do more."
If you bake Rita's Cranberry-Nut Brownies for someone who needs a little TLC, you might just get a heartwarming thank-you note, too.
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