BALTIMORE — It's cookie-baking day in Hilda Yeaton's kitchen.
"Today I made Rice Krispy butterscotch cookies and tomorrow I’m making pumpkin pecan bars," she said.
This is a weekly activity for Yeaton and not just because she loves to make delicious treats. She's baking for a purpose.
"I prayed that God would show me a way I could help people during the pandemic," she said.
That prayer turned into a post on the website Next Door early last year, when a neighbor asked if anyone would want to make snacks for the night nurses in the Trauma Resuscitation Unit (TRU) at Shock Trauma in Baltimore.
"So I made cookies and the nurses went wild. I thought, 'I think I’ll do it next week' so I started doing it once a week since April of last year."
Every week, Yeaton bakes cookies and bars for the 12 nurses in the TRU. Her binder of recipes ensures she doesn't repeat a recipe, which she says she's only done once.
Yeaton wraps up the treats for each nurse, bags them up and delivers them one of the nurses' moms who lives in her neighborhood. That nurse, Betsy Bishop, then picks them up and shares them with her colleagues.
"Everyone knows two a.m. is cookie hour," she said with a laugh. "When I’m on vacation people are more upset that they’re not getting cookies that week then that I’m actually gone."
According to Bishop, the TRU nurses are responsible for resuscitating and stabilizing patients that come in with any number of traumas, like motorcycle accidents, shootings, stabbings or falls. The night shift in one of the busiest hospitals in the country can take its toll physically, mentally and emotionally. The nurses say they're grateful for a moment of bliss each week to enjoy their cookies and the generosity of a stranger that's lasted so long.
"There was a flood of attention and love which was very appreciated for a few months but she’s ride or die," said Ellen Parker, BSN, RN. "She’s been with us the entire time."
"On a really cruddy shift we’re all like, let’s break out the cookies, and it sort of gives everyone a pep in their step," said Jackie McLoughlin, BSN, RN.
What makes this relationship between Yeaton and the nurses even more unique is she's never met them except for Bishop. Yet the connection and bond among them grows stronger, and sweeter, with every cookie delivery.
"I’m sure baking is a lot of work, and for her to keep it up for us like this means a lot to us. We all really appreciate it," said Michelle George, BSN, RN.
"I hope she knows how much it means to us and that we really, really appreciate it," said Thad Bostick, BSN, RN.
The nurses always send Yeaton a picture with their treats, the masks unable to hide their smiles and gratitude. It warms her heart like the center of a cookie, motivating her to keep baking.
"They’re the real heroes. They work so hard and its very stressful and I think gosh, if something I enjoy doing can give them some joy and a break from the stress, then that makes me really happy," Yeaton said.
So who needs milk, when you have kindness to go with your cookies.