GR cookie company empowering homeless women

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids cookie company doing more than spreading cheer this holiday season.

Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies is creating hope for homeless women by giving them a job and another chance at success.

It started with two Grand Rapids women making cookies together one winter, and the idea their baking project could do some good. They were right.

The gourmet sweets are now bringing in $50,000 a year, all of which goes to helping the homeless.

“Homemade salted caramel and then that’s Austrian chocolate,” said Cindy Knape, the creation’s mastermind, of the ingredients in a cookie.

She says it took about 20 tries before each recipe was perfected. Knape and Chris Mason started baking in Knape’s kitchen six years ago. Knape is a nurse and Mason is a doctor, but on Tuesdays they bake.

“Cindy was looking for a new hobby and I was looking for something for her special needs son to get involved in,” said Mason.

The women thought the product was good enough to sell, so they went to the farmer’s market and the cookies were a success.

The company is called Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies, because both women have a son named Paul. 

When they started, the proceeds were donated to a different charity every year, but three years ago the women linked up with Degage Ministries.

“It’s a good job, smells good, taste good,” said Cindy Koppenol, who is now a paid employee. She’s been working for Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies for the past three years.

Before she was employed she was homeless; traveling from place to place to survive.

“It’s rough out there,” she said. “Just when I thought I was going to give up, Degage came through for me.”

Koppenol is a part of Degage’s open door program. It helps ladies find jobs and housing. Some participants of the program moved on to full-time jobs and now come back to volunteer. Others are just starting.

“I was sleeping outdoors,” said Susan Schner, who is also a part of the program. “I was homeless for eight months sleeping on sidewalks.”

Right now, there are only a couple women from the program paid to work there. The rest of the ladies working are volunteers.

“You wouldn’t’ necessarily pick them (the women in the Degage program) out, they fit right in with the rest of the women,” said Knape. “We’ve all had many challenges in our life and yet there’s just a homeless challenge.”

The founders are proud of what the cookie company has accomplished. It’s become bigger than they ever dreamed.

“One cookie at a time, we made a difference,” said Mason.

Schner and the other ladies in the program are thankful for the opportunity.

“It’s a new start. where there was no hope, now there is hope,” said Schner.

Donations are being collected to allow the company to expand and hire more women. They are also looking for a bigger kitchen.

The cookies you can be purchased at Forest Hills Foods, Klingman’s and the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids.

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