SHOREWOOD – Eight months ago, Jeanett Scott of Shorewood realized her wish of owning a storefront bakery.
On Saturday, Scott will participate in an event to make wishes come true for others in her community who are financially in need or who have disabilities. Scott, owner of the Cookie Jar Bakery in Shorewood with her husband, Tom, is planning a special mix of scrumptious treats for Shorewood HUGS’ sixth annual Hugs & Wishes Chocolate Ball.
These will include miniature choco-cherry cookies (chocolate cookies with a maraschino cherry inside and a fudgey frosting), brownie trail bites, whoopie pie wedges and magic cookie bites – a 7-layer bar that includes graham crackers, pecans, chocolate chips and coconut.
Proceeds from the ball will benefit Shorewood HUGS’ Hugs & Wishes program. To date, this program has fulfilled nearly 300 wishes and donated more than $180,000 to individuals and causes in Shorewood, Channahon, Joliet, Minooka and Plainfield, according to Molly Babyak, Shorewood HUGS president and co-chairwoman of this year’s ball.
Scott is thrilled to participate in this year’s chocolate ball.
“They were looking for a donation and came and asked if I was interested,” Scott said. “My husband and I are kind of like people that have a tender heart for helping others.”
For 16 years, Scott had shipped her baked goods, working first from home and then from a commercial kitchen, she said. She used traditional recipes, like the popular chocolate chip, and family recipes, such as the coffee cake muffin, which was passed down from her late mother-in-law.
Other varieties Scott prepares, according to the Cookie Jar Bakery Facebook page and the website at www.cookiejarbakery.com, include whoopie pies, snickerdoodle sandwiches, choco-cherry cookies, buckeye balls, decorated sugar cookies, pecan chunk bars, ruskies, cranberry white chocolate cookies, triple chocolate cookies, macadamia nut white chocolate cookies, pecan tassies, turtle cookies, oatmeal chip cookies, low-sugar banana bread and blueberry muffins.
Scott also has a few gluten-free items, which she makes from gluten-free graham cracker crumbs instead of flour. She also offers specials and still takes orders from her website.
Her move to a storefront at 807 W. Jefferson St. in Shorewood – a homey space with vintage cookie jars and cookie-themed storybooks for children – was a delightful surprise. For five years, Scott had been seeking a location within 15 minutes from her house.
She ended up with better than that.
“I’m just five minutes away from home,” she said.
The journey to the storefront had delays, including Scott requiring knee surgery. Finally, just as Scott began to doubt her dream, a real estate agent friend found the perfect spot.
“I had almost given up,” Scott said.
Not only have Scott’s existing customers remained loyal to her, she is building a solid new customer base. She even has a friendly rapport with some of the other businesses.
“The Subway guy sends all his customers down our way for the lemon bars because they are his favorite,” Scott said.
It’s not often that a challenging economy leads to something good, but that’s how Shorewood HUGS began. The group originally was five moms who wanted to give back to the community in which they raised their kids, Babyak said. Today, the organization boasts 43 members.
The chocolate ball, which helps raise the necessary funds to grant wishes, is perfect for any chocoholic – like Babyak, although, as co-chair, she rarely gets to sample more than a bite or two, she said.
Still, Babyak said her ultimate wish is not for chocolate, but to finally reach the $30,000 goal she sets each year for the ball and help even more people in the community live happier lives. It’s come close in the last couple years – $28,000 in 2013 and more than $29,000 in 2014.
“This year, I’d love to get over that magic number,” Babyak said.
Chocolate vendors and sponsors for the Hugs and Wishes Chocolate Ball are: Barolo Restaurant in Joliet, Bella Cucina in Joliet, Callie’s Cuties in Plainfield, Cathy’s Sweet Creations in Plainfield, Chicago Brew Werks in Plainfield, Cookie Jar Bakery in Shorewood, Guess What’s Cooking in Plainfield, Hollingworth Candies in Lockport, Joliet Junior College Culinary Arts Program and Millette’s Cakes in Plainfield.
The event also will include live entertainment – a first this year – by The Clients Band, as well as celebrity judges, who will decided a “Best Creation,” according to a news release from Shorewood HUGS.
IF YOU GO
What: Sixth Annual Hugs and Wishes Chocolate Ball
When: 7 to 11 p.m. Feb. 7
Where: Clarion Hotel Joliet, 411 S. Larkin Ave., Joliet
Tickets: $50 in advance or $60 at the door; buy at www.shorewoodhugs.org