Just when I'd convinced myself it was my civic duty to gorge on Girl Scout cookies once a year, my granddaughter decided not to join a troop. This didn't matter to me until cookie season recently started, pandemic-style, with no Scouts offering sales in front of grocery stores.
But I have discovered another source of cookies that benefits a worthy cause. Sara and Mateo Molina spend each weekend in their kitchen baking their mother's famous cookie recipe, which they deliver to buyers in festive boxes to raise money to buy groceries for low-income families in Cali, Colombia.
Their parents, Maria and Mauricio, are from Colombia, and normally all of them enjoy frequent trips to enjoy their large extended family. While there, Sara and Mateo also discovered Casa San Jose, a foundation that focuses on the city's recyclers, who are the lowest-paid workers in the country. It provides food and access to health care, and also has programs for the elderly and for youths.
"We were seeing the poverty firsthand, and we saw how drastically different it is from here," said Sara, 16, a junior at Foothill High School, who called the need "staggering."
"Last spring break (2019) I was able to work with them for a little bit. They are really good people, hard-working and deserving," she said.
"We were planning on going to Colombia last summer with some of my sister's friends but with COVID we couldn't travel," Mateo, 13, an eighth-grader at Pleasanton Middle School, recalled. "So we wanted to help from here."
"Before COVID they had banquets, food and after-school care programs for families, but with the pandemic, providing food became difficult and they are really struggling," Sara said.
Sara and Mateo -- and their friends -- had always loved their mother's special cookies so they decided to bake and sell them to benefit Casa San Jose.
"The cookies are very chocolaty and sweet, and the walnuts counteract the sweetness," Mateo explained.
The endeavor, which they dubbed Humankind Cookies, offers packages of six Originals or 15 Minis, described as a "combination of crunch and chocolate bliss that will make your day," for $5. They take orders on their website as well as Instagram.
"We always cook with masks and gloves, and everything is super sanitary," Sara said. "We have no-contact deliveries."
Their parents donate the ingredients for the cookies and cover other expenses, so with no overhead, Sara and Mateo have been able to send $8,000 to Casa San Jose.
"This has funded more than 9,000 pounds of food for these families," Sara said. "It's just incredible how much support we're getting from our amazing community."
A family of four in Colombia can buy a week of basic groceries for $15, so the $5 cookie price goes a long way.
"They send photos and videos, and they're so heartwarming," Mateo added.
The sister and brother also help out closer to home and rallied friends to raise money for downtown Pleasanton restaurants struggling during the pandemic. After taking up a collection from family and friends, they divided $2,000 among Wild One, McKay's, Salt Craft, Brava and Patio. Also they have come together under the name Humankind Together to support Bottle Taps, Open Heart Kitchen and Valley Humane Society.
The Girl Scouts, on their website, list many ways to find cookies, from downloading the Cookie Finder app to directly texting a local seller. But their cookie season ends this month, so check out humankindcookies.org to try a new homemade sweet -- and to help a sister and brother make a difference.
Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, "Valley Views," will appear in the paper on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.