‘Operation Cookie’ Serves Thousands to Homeless, Hospitalized Vets

From left, Joe Huber, a Navy veteran, and Abraham Salazar, are on hand to help out.

Thousands upon thousands of cookies, some estimates put the massive number at 30,000, were delivered Wednesday morning to the Woman’s Club of South Pasadena for “Operation Cookie” that benefits hospitalized and homeless veterans.

“This is my second year and it’s simply amazing,” South Pasadena City Councilman Robert S. Joe said as he helped box up cookies to be delivered to those vets in need. “I’ve never seen so many cookies in my whole life.”

Volunteers fill the boxes with goodies for the veterans in need. Photos by Steve Whitmore

Each year, the Wednesday before Memorial Day, donors deliver thousands of every imaginable type of cookie to the woman’s club where volunteers pack them up in decorative boxes to be delivered to the Long Beach, Sepulveda-North Hills facility and Loma Linda VA health care facilities; to homeless veterans served by the Cabrillo Center in Long Beach; and the VA Clinic in downtown Los Angeles. “Operation Cookie” has expanded to include the Wounded Warriors Battalion at Camp Pendleton and the Jimmy Miller Foundation that helps veterans from West Los Angeles to San Diego. Cookies are also distributed to veterans attending memorial events throughout the greater Los Angeles area including the South Pasadena War Memorial Building, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Pasadena and the Pasadena City College Veterans Club.

“Operation Cookie” originally began in 1941 during WW II when members of the woman’s club would spend countless hours baking cookies in the clubhouse’s large commercial kitchen. The program continued during war efforts over the next decades, including the Gulf War, Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Today’s program no longer goes into war zones but provides cookies to hospitalized and homeless veterans, according to event organizers.

From left, Wendell Hanson, 96, and John Genovese, 93, are on hand to help fill the boxes.

One of the highlights of Wednesday’s event was the appearance of three World War II veterans at the woman’s club, 1424 Fremont Ave. They were on hand just like the rest of the volunteers to fill the boxes for the veterans in need, some of whom suffer from spinal cord injuries or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“This is a fantastic event,” John Genovese, 93, a Navy veteran who was stationed in Guam. “I am just glad to be able to help out.”

Wendell Hanson, 96, also a Navy veteran, echoed his colleagues’ sentiments.

“I’m grateful to be here,” Hanson said as he donned his gloves to prepare to stuff the goody box with cookies. “We need to remember our veterans.” The third WW II vet, Marshall St. John, was running a little behind schedule because he has a job as a school crossing guard.

Those in attendance most assuredly remembered Hanson, Genovese and St. John, all South Pasadena residents.

South Pasadena Firefighters Association donated $500 for the cause.
Photos by Steve Whitmore

“We do this event so the veterans know that they’re remembered and thought of,” said Beverly Biber, coordinator of the event. “Not just one day of the year, but hopefully all throughout the year that we recognize them, and we appreciate our veterans and everything they’ve done for us along with our first responders; all the people that are on the front lines either in the community or in the war zones.”

This was a first for South Pasadena City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe, and she was “simply amazed.”

“This is incredible,” De Wolfe said as she placed cookies in her box. “What a great testament to our city. The way we come together and help those that need help. It’s just another example of what a great city South Pasadena is.”

City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe was experiencing “Operation Cookie” for the first time.