Made by Mary spreads cheer with homemade treats, cards
A Mount Prospect family's mission to spread a little care and kindness in their community is gaining traction.
Made by Mary was profiled last month on WGN-TV, and now the team and its founder, Erin Robinson, will receive an award at the village's annual Shining Star gala Feb. 2, appropriately called "There Ought to be More Like This."
completely blown away by all of this attention," Robinson says. But they'll take it, she adds, if it prompts others to join them in brightening up the lives of others.
The team's premise is simple: when they hear of someone going through a hard time, they bake a batch of cookies or cupcakes and deliver them, complete with a handmade card and words of encouragement.
Robinson conceived the idea last summer as a way to keep her children busy -- and engaged in helping others in the community. She chose to center their efforts around baking, a favorite pastime of her middle child, Mary.
"At first, it was for people I knew," Robinson says, describing how they made a batch for a neighbor on the day she was to take her son for medical treatments. They also made some for their elderly neighbors "as a cheerful treat and a companionable visit."
Now, more than six months later, Robinson estimates they have made nearly 200 visits throughout Mount Prospect and parts of Arlington Heights -- and baked thousands of cookies and cupcakes.
Mary, a fifth-grader at Dryden Elementary School, says she loves baking cupcakes the most, since it allows her to become creative with the frosting and decorating.
"People like getting them," she says. "It helps brighten their day."
Her older sister, Kelly, who is a seventh-grader at South Middle School, channels her artistic side and makes the cards.
"I base them on what's going on with the family," Kelly says. "I try to find a good quote or something inspiring and then I dig into my pencil case to start drawing."
People on the receiving end appreciate the surprise gesture so much that they often turn around and offer to help, Robinson says. Currently, she has about 20 volunteers on the team who help bake and deliver the goodies.
And that's the goal, Robinson says -- to advance caring in the community.
Requests come by email and through Facebook messages, Robinson says, both on the Made by Mary MP site and on the public Mount Prospect Neighbors page.
Recent requests have been to cheer up a young family who lost its father, as well as another family with a member going through cancer treatments.
"A lot of times it depends on what allergies they have," Mary adds, pointing to the gluten-free and dairy-free Rice Krispie treats they delivered recently, as well as a portion of fresh, organic berries and homemade whipped cream for a cancer patient needing to avoid processed sugar.
Robinson says she took the inspiration for Made by Mary from a sermon she heard last summer about serving others. While she and the family have consistently volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, she realized they could be helping families right in their own backyard.
"We're trying to expand compassion and caring -- and minimize loneliness," Robinson says. "If we can quickly bake up a batch of cookies and make a card, and remind people that someone's thinking about them, then that's something we can do."
At this point, the family and its team members fund all of their expenses, but the day may be coming when they need to formalize their mission and become a nonprofit. Already, they are developing a website.
"There are so many next steps that it makes me anxious," Robinson says. "I don't want to lose our local focus -- or our impact. I don't want to turn an act of compassion into a business."
Find out more about Made by Mary at madebymarycommunity.org.