Christmas Cookies for the Homeless

A Young Samaritan And Her Christmas Cookies

It’s never too early to start building the habits of helpfulness

If you happened to notice a three-year-old girl selling Christmas cookies to benefit the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco this past holiday season, you witnessed the start of a lifelong habit of good turns—if her parents have anything to do with it.

“My husband and I both wanted to do something service-oriented for Christmas, because we want to instill a sense of social responsibility in our daughter,” says Jen Leech, a founder and vice president of engineering at a San Francisco software consultancy. So the couple came up with the idea to have young Eris, just three years old, bake and sell Christmas cookies to benefit a cause they all supported.

“It’s definitely going to be something that she remembers for a long time.”

“One of the things we liked about the project was that it was something our daughter could do entirely on her own,” Leech told Good Turns recently. “She obviously didn’t find the recipe for the cookies, and didn’t set up the electric mixer, but she basically did it herself. So there’s a lot of agency involved there, and also direct interaction with people, asking them to buy cookies to contribute to this cause.”

It was also a cause that Eris herself cared about. “Because she lives in the Mission District, she sees homeless people all the time, and it’s something that she thinks about,” Leech says. “She will talk about, ‘Can I give my bed to somebody on the street that doesn’t have one?’ This is something she’s already contemplating and a way she wants to help people.”

Leech and her husband were already familiar with the Homeless Prenatal Program—which provides housing, prenatal and parenting support, and other services to homeless mothers and families—because they had donated clothes, toys, and other items from earlier in Eris’s life to the program. “When we learned more about their program, we thought it was a really, really good charity, and we wanted to contribute more.” And so they did: Eris’s cookies ended up raising more than $200 for the project.

For Eris, the project was deeply engaging, Leech says, and something that was new to her every step of the way. “She’s never really made cookies, so that was new, figuring out how all that stuff works, and actually going out and taking the initiative to set up the table on the sidewalk, and make a sign, and then soliciting people to buy cookies for charity,” Leech recalls. “All of it was really new to her. Her particular personality is one where she kind of takes everything in and doesn’t talk about it when she’s having a kind of intense experience. She’ll just experience it, and then a month or two later she’ll say something about it. So she didn’t really talk about it much at the time, but afterwards we talked over with her what we were doing with the money and who it was going to affect and how it was going to affect them, and she kind of nodded very seriously. She’s trying to grok what that really means, to help somebody who might be a homeless baby. What does that mean? It’s hard for her to even contemplate.”

“It’s definitely going to be something that she remembers for a long time,” Leech says. “And we like supporting the Homeless Prenatal Program, we feel like it’s extremely worthy. So we were thrilled that we were able to put together a project like that.” The family’s plan is to find a similar project next year at Christmas, and every year. What better way to instill one of the best habits of all: extending a helping hand. And in this case, even the smallest of hands was able to have a big effect.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Stu Spivack

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