Nonprofit Cookie Business Employs Homeless Women In Grand Rapids

By Sasha Zidar The Grand Rapids Press, Mich.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) All the proceeds from "Pauls' Moms' Cookies" go to Degage Ministries and its programs. Some of the nonprofits employees are homeless women who stay in Degage's Open Door Women's Center.


One non-profit cookie business is attempting to help the homeless community in Grand Rapids one cookie at a time.

In addition to making yummy cookies, the unique business is finding success in employing and assisting homeless women secure housing.

Seven formerly homeless women spent time working for Pauls' Moms' Cookies, founded in 2015. All seven, including two current employees, have found housing.

Pauls' Moms' Cookies is a social enterprise designed to benefit Degage Ministries Open Door Women's Center. The center provides a safe haven during the overnight hours to adult women in crisis.

All the proceeds from Pauls' Moms' Cookies go to Degage Ministries and its programs. Some of the nonprofits employees are homeless women who stay in Degage's Open Door Women's Center.

Pauls' Moms' Cookies has six signature cookies. They are currently sold out. When available, they can be purchased for $2 each at

The six cookies to choose from are Lemon Cherry Dream, Mint Meltaways, Molasses Ginger, Oatmeal Berry, Salted Caramel Chocolate Chunk and a gluten free Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache cookie.

The cookie business is sold in three major Grand Rapids retailers: Kingma's Market, Forest Hills Foods and Bridge Street Market.

The nonprofit started with two best friends, Cindy Knape and Chris Mason, who both love to bake and each have a son named Paul.

"It just warms our hearts, it's exactly what we sought out to do from the beginning," Knape said. "We wanted to make a difference somehow doing something charitable."

Homeless women are able to learn job skills, earn income, build self-confidence and grow in a community where they are supported.

Susan Schur, a volunteer for Pauls' Moms' Cookies, lived on the streets of Grand Rapids for eight months after she broke her foot, lost her job and ended up homeless.

Schur said she remembers sleeping on the sidewalks and in tunnels while searching for safety and warmth. Last November when winds reached 50 mph and the cold became difficult to bear, she sought shelter at Degage Ministries.

Schur was involved in a program at Degage Ministries for five months, where she met with counselors and did volunteer work.

Shortly after being in Degage's program, a Pauls' Moms' Cookies employee asked if Schur would like to work for the nonprofit. It was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.

"I'm happy now. ... I think about the past but I think about the future, too," Schur said. "Pauls' Moms' Cookies changed my life absolutely. Where would I have been if I didn't go to Degage Ministries?"

Schur now has her own apartment and helps bake for Pauls' Moms' Cookies every Tuesday at Trinity United Methodist Church, where the employees handle all of the baking.

"One of the things we really want to do is work with community groups that serve the neighborhoods," said Matt Witkowski, the community director of Trinity United Methodist Church. "When we have strategic partners like Pauls' Moms' Cookies that serves with Degage, it's just a great win-win for both of us."

Walking through the church's front doors, the smell of fresh baked cookies hits guests. As church activities are taking place on the first floor, there are 1,400 cookies being made in the kitchen downstairs.

Annual sales have more than doubled in the three years since the cookie business started in 2015, according to Degage.

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