Baking Goodies for Prison Reform

First published in the Jan. 21 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Festive cookies are a staple of winter holidays, but few take it to the level that Courtney Jeong has.
In December, the lifelong South Pasadena resident (with the help of a few friends) baked 400 cookies and sold every one of them. Jeong sold the cookies for between $1 and $3 apiece and, combined with sales from some handmade mask chains, raised nearly $1,200 for the nonprofit groups Initiate Justice and Dignity and Power Now.
“We were out there from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and that was the exact time we sold our last cookie,” Jeong said. “Almost everyone bought a cookie that I had talked to. Everyone was just so supportive.”
Initiate Justice and Dignity and Power Now are California organizations working to end or reform incarceration. Jeong was inspired to donate to both after watching her sister and brother-in-law work with prison nonprofits.

Photo courtesy Courtney Jeong
Proceeds from cookies baked by Courtney Jeong were donated to nonprofits focused on prison reform.

The original idea was to sell her handmade mask chains as a fundraiser, but a 50-pound bag of flour that had been lounging around Jeong’s home changed her mind.
“I was like, ‘You know what? I want to make cookies,’” Jeong, who also works at a confectionery, said. “I’ve made pies and stuff in the past for the holidays to sell. And so, I was like, why don’t we?”
She quickly shared her idea in a group text message that included her friend, Frankie Fleming, as well as Zoe Axelrod and Geoff Kixmiller, two South Pasadena residents who own Tomorrow Today, a bookstore and rapid-response press in Chinatown.
Axelrod and Kixmiller volunteered their storefront as a location to sell the cookies and soon enough, Jeong’s freezer was filling up with cookie dough.
“We try to build that kind of ethos into Tomorrow Today and into the project in general of finding ways to give back to community or build community,” Axelrod said. “So, when Courtney came up with the idea, it was, of course, we would want to do something like that.”
Tomorrow Today also does free or by-donation printing for community organizers and activists. They also give out posters on local campaigns for free. Partnering with Jeong and her cause just made sense to Axelrod and Kixmiller.
“In 2020, there was so much energy around police abolition and prison reform,” Axelrod said. “Just because that energy has died down a bit, it doesn’t mean these issues aren’t still fully there.”
Jeong’s original plan included baking 12 flavors of cookies, but scaled back to six. There was the notorious mishap with the chocolate chip cookies, too. After grinding out a few batches of the flavor, she decided it was time to taste test.
A very honest review from Jeong’s sister took the chocolate chip recipe out of circulation and the cookies became part of a group of about 300 samples that were scrapped.

Photo by Haley Sawyer / The Review
Zoe Axelrod, Courtney Jeong and Geoff Kixmiller

Once a new chocolate chip recipe was secured — courtesy of Republique, a cafe on La Brea — Jeong began baking. In the days leading up to the sale, the ovens of Jeong, Axelrod, Kixmiller and Fleming were running nonstop.
“Basically, I was going home from work and then making these cookies,” Jeong said. “I divided three batches to Zoey, three batches to Frankie and they both came through for me, became full-force cookie factories.”
Jeong and Fleming headed to Tomorrow Today on a sunny Saturday morning with about 30 boxes of cookies and hundreds of individual cookies in tow.
Customers wandered through Chinatown’s Central Plaza, where Tomorrow Today is located, and meandered to Jeong’s table of cookies. By the end of the day, the sweets that sold for a few dollars added up, and she had more than $1,000 in her pocket for a cause she cares about.
“I think people think they need a lot of resources or planning to be able to do something,” Axelrod said, “but you can really start super small, and maybe $1,200 isn’t a lot to a lot of people, but it’s not nothing. You still spent your time doing something worthwhile.”
Jeong has plans to do a cookie sale again, although it might be sooner than the holiday season or could include pies. The possibilities all lie within Jeong’s entrepreneurial, chocolate-chipped mind.