"Foodie" turns passion into charitable business

Young bakes and sells cookies, as well as using her talents for a fundraiser, Cookies for Hope, to help families in need. Photo Credit: Emma Fromberg Jennifer Young is proud to say she found her passion. Lucky her, she gets to bake cookies for a living.

But not just any cookies. These cookies come in the form of wedding cakes, birthday balloons, or even Frankenstein faces, so cute that you almost don’t want to eat them. Almost.

Young is the owner of Cookie Temptations, located in the Woodland neighborhood in Duluth, Minn. With some help from her friends, she bakes and sells cookies, as well as using her talents for a fundraiser, Cookies for Hope, to help families in need.

She didn’t plan on owning a cookie business. Young was just a “foodie” before she found her passion creating cookies for others.

“You’ll always see me in the kitchen,” Young said. “Even if I am not baking, I’m cooking something.“

A few years ago, Young made her first attempt at baking sugar cookies for Christmas. Afterwards, she sat down and checked her email, where she learned of a friend-of-a-friend who had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.

“I heard her story and it just affected me so much,” Young said. “I woke up the next morning and I just, I felt a calling to help her somehow. I didn’t know what I could do but I called my sister and asked, ‘Do you think I can sell these cookies?’ And she said, ‘You can try.’”

And that’s what Young did. She said she posted pictures of her cookies on eBay, explained the woman’s story, and said that 50 percent of all proceeds would go to that family. In her first attempt at Cookies for Hope, Young raised $160 for a family she didn’t even know in Tennessee.

“I wasn’t expecting a lot but I just wanted to help somehow,” Young said. So she kept trying.

Young found out about another family, the DeSantos. Their son was born with a brain tumor and underwent surgery to get it removed at seven weeks old.  Young started another fundraiser here in Duluth for them, and that time ended up raising thousands of dollars for their family.

“When I heard the [DeSanto’s] story I said, ‘Let’s just try,” Young said. “I remember working until midnight. And I remember rolling, and rolling, and my hands were getting sore and my shoulders were getting sore. But I thought, this is nothing compared to what that little boy’s going through, and what that family was going through. So when I thought of him, it just made me keep on rolling.”

“It was truly a blessing,” said Lesli DeSanto, Dylan’s grandma.“She doesn’t even know how much she helped them out. She really did offer them hope.”

After putting on seven fundraisers, she bakes out of her kitchen at home or uses the kitchen at the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, where her husband works. Young began getting calls requesting different designs of cookies.

“So I’d go out and buy the cookie cutter and do it,” Young said.

Her family and friends urged her to open a business, and now the community rushes in to get her cookies from Cookie Temptations, at 4025 Woodland Avenue.

“In that point of my life, I needed a purpose,” Young said. “It was like, ‘God what am I here for, why am I here?’ And then these fundraisers started happening and the cookies started happening and I thought, I found my purpose. It’s to do what I love to do.”

Cookie Temptations is slowly growing, and Young said they’re doing well even with the recession.

Loyal customers can be seen rushing into the shop, coupons in hand, asking about new flavors and buying bags of cookies.

She’s found help from friends, family, and through delicious treats. She was able to hire self-titled “cookie designer” Kaitlin.

Another employee, Muriel, “does the dishes for cookies.”

“If Kaitlin’s not here I’m kind of doing everything myself so it gets really crazy without her, so I’m really glad to have her and she knows it every day when she walks in!” Young said, hanging out in the kitchen, beaming across the small shop at her employee, who was busy answering phones and selling discount Frankenstein and ghost cookies the week after Halloween.

When she’s not in the kitchen, or running to the store for more ingredients, Young spends her time at church.

“I love to serve. I’m the best greeter at church you’ll ever find,” she said.

Young has a monthly Cookies for Hope family, and it’s what she said, “seems to keep her going” with her busy schedule.

“One of the things I’ve always felt strongly about, is that every cookie sold, a prayer goes out to that family,” Young said, brushing a tear from her eye as the phone rang, again, this time for an order of ladybug cookies. “Sorry, I get tearied up!” she said, laughing.

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