For Jesse Boonstra, a criminal justice college student and member of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Ripon, Calif., baking cookies to show compassion for people in tough situations is something she does frequently.
So she was as surprised as anyone when a cookie delivery to firefighters battling the Rim fire in Yosemite National Park recently made news headlines.
The story and picture first appeared on the church’s Facebook page and then in the Modesto Bee. It spread across the country when the Associated Press picked it up.
Boonstra and 10 to 15 others baked cookies at home and at the church. She accompanied Ripon fire chief Dennis Bitters for a day, delivering about 1,200 cookies to firefighters. Ripon is a small community in the north of the San Joaquin Valley, two hours west of Yosemite.
Firefighters responded to the cookie delivery with hugs and smiles, Boonstra said. Bitters said firefighters are well taken care of while on duty, but special expressions of support such as the cookies are very much appreciated. “This country is great because people are so willing to help each other in crisis situations,” he said.
Bitters said it is very important to him to encourage young people like Boonstra to see that firefighters do their work because they truly care for their communities. Although bringing Jesse with him on the lines presented a level of danger, he felt it was important for her to see the work firsthand. She experienced some of the ash and smoke along with them.
Boonstra expressed surprise and joy that “something so small that I thought was just helpful . . . got so much attention.” She hopes her experience will encourage others to reach out in simple ways to those in difficult situations.