First United Methodist 32nd annual Cookie Walk today

For those cookie cravers feeling a bit of calorie-induced guilt, know this about today’s 32nd annual First United Methodist Church Cookie Walk: You need a sweet tooth and equally sweet heart to supremely support the fundraiser.

Because the gathering, which normally generates something like $3,000 or more, supports missions from local to international, including those helping the struggling and less fortunate.

There, now. As a caring, ravenous humanitarian, you are free to buy, eat and treat — your friends, family, neighbors, whoever.

The event from 9 a.m. to noon normally features as many as 8,000 cookies — including a staggering 25 or so varieties of them, plus candies and such — and normally sells out to a variety of cookie monsters looking very much like mild-mannered citizens. What might be left over can be sold the next morning in the church narthex before Sunday services.

Besides, there are longtime volunteers such as Susan Gobert who regularly has baked 40 dozen cookies some years to help the cause. And we’re hardly talking your basic sugar cookie here.

Heavens to Keebler, absolutely not. Gobert fires up the oven, and fires up the creativity, often inspired by family recipes.

Try names such as sour cream lemon cut-out sugar cookies. Not to mention cranberry pecan white chocolate cookies.

“As much as I enjoy making these, I have to make very sure I get them all out of the house so that I don’t eat them,” Gobert cracked a couple years ago.

Volunteer baker Sharon Zeigler can relate — but with a twist. She said so when someone asked how she herself avoids eating them.

Um, that’s hardly the problem.

“The better question,” she said, “is how do all these women keep their husbands from eating them?”

Inquiring minds want to know, especially where her husband Ray is concerned.

“I hide them,” she said with a laugh.

Does it work?

“No comment,” she said with a chuckle.

She’s making gingerbread cookies, red velvet cookies, peanut butter concoctions known as blossoms, and pretzel-oriented candy with chocolate kisses and M&Ms. She does not disclose how she hides the aroma from her spouse. But she has been baking and keeping him at bay from her creations for five years now.

“I just like baking cookies,” Zeigler said. “And I enjoy working with people, and all these ladies are just wonderful to work with.”

Truth be told, there are more than just ladies making top treats. On their honor, the boys in the church’s Cub Scout Pack No. 550 are making cookies, too. Just in case you’re wondering if these youngsters could be on their way to a baking badge or somesuch, Zeigler offers an answer.

“Their cookies are absolutely delicious,” she said.

Volunteer Jerilyn Ahlbrand is finishing up her two specialties: divinity and peanut butter fudge. She acknowledged that she’s motivated by more than the holiday spirit this time of year. She’s passionate about one of the United Methodist Women’s projects that the Cookie Walk supports — the Indianapolis-based Lucille Raines Residence recovery house for addicts.

Plus, she’s doubly motivated this year because her peanut butter fudge sold out by about 10:30 a.m. last year.

“Anytime we can sell even more is good,” Ahlbrand said.

Moreover, Ahlbrand becomes a customer at the event, buying a mix of varieties of sweets to be a sweetie to her hairstylist Amy Perez and coworkers at Hair In Motion with a special delivery days later.

“I think,” Ahlbrand said, “that they look forward to that.”

About the event

What: First United Methodist Church 32nd annual Cookie Walk.

When: 9 a.m. to noon today.

Where: First United Methodist Church, 618 Eighth St. in downtown Columbus.

Information: 812-372-2851 or