KINGS POINT, N.Y., Dec. 3, 2015 – Over the past month Cookie Cafe, a much loved custom at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), broke with tradition by taking their cookies to other maritime academies in order to bring comfort to students, alumni, faculty, staff and families who suffered the loss of a crew member aboard the El Faro lost during Hurricane Joaquin.
Cookie Cafe at Kings Point (KP) is a non-profit organization that was started in 2007, by Carol “Mom” Guest, wife of Dr. Gene Guest, Class of 1966. It is supported and run by KP parents, family and friends. The goal is to increase morale by sharing home-baked cookies in the friendly and relaxed environment of Land Hall, the Academy’s Student Activities building, every Thursday afternoon.
From the earliest days that followed the disappearance of El Faro, the tragic impact was palpable at Kings Point. Thoughts, conversations and prayers focused on the ill-fated crew, including USMMA Alumnus, Steve Shultz, Class of 1984. While the search was still ongoing, several Class of 2016 parents discussed what the Academy communities were going through, when one mother, Monica Waterbury asked, “what if we were to give-up our Cookie Cafe in their favor and send all cookies to them?" Immediately, another mother, Margie Soobitsky, contacted a Maine Maritime mom, and explained, “we would like to show our support.”
After obtaining approval from Maine Maritime’s Commandant, Captain Nathan Gandy, Leslie Ferguson Hart, (USMMA Class of 2018 mom) who currently manages KP Cookie Cafe began organizing this special Cookie Cafe.
Margie Soobitsky said, “we got an overwhelming response from USMMA families and friends, alumni and our cookie angels. Within just a couple of days we had so many who signed up and we sent over 450 dozen cookies to Maine.” In total, Kings Point Parents sent over 531 dozen cookies and donations to Maine Maritime Academy, in honor and remembrance of graduates: Mike Davidson, Class of 1988; Danielle Randolph, Class of 2005; Mitchell Kuflik, Class of 2011; Mike Holland, Class of 2012; and Dylan Meklin, Class of 2015.
Upon hearing the sad news that Massachusetts (Mass) Maritime, State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College, and USMMA had also lost alumni, Cookie Cafe added them to their schedule. On Oct. 29, 2015, Kings Point Parents sent over 650 dozen cookies to Massachusetts Maritime Academy, in honor and remembrance of Jeffrey Mathias, Class of 1996 and Keith Griffin, Class of 2005. Finally, on Nov. 19, 2015, Kings Point Parents sent 550 dozen cookies to SUNY Maritime in honor and remembrance of Richard Pusatere, Class of 2003.
“Our USMMA families, friends, and alumni are strong partners in providing comfort and support when Midshipmen need it most,” said Deputy Maritime Administrator Michael J. Rodriguez. “It’s good to see them providing a well-needed reminder of home, family, and friends to State Maritime Academy cadets by sharing home-baked cookies.”
“I am really proud to be a USMMA parent,” said Soobitsky. “It is amazing what the parents will do to help when needed. USMMA should be proud of what they did to show solidarity. The reality is, when our midshipman are sailing on a ship, they will be working with others from Mass, Maine and SUNY maritime. When they are all out at sea and working together, they are family. I really hope that someday they will be sailing and one of the cadets will remember the day that USMMA sent thousands of cookies to their academy. “
Cookie Cafe is currently planning a special event to show support and to remember USMMA alumnus, Steve Shultz ‘84.
By Veronica Cassidy Barry