The 80 Year Old Crazy Cookie Lady

As the oven timer begins to beep, she hurriedly pushes back the glasses from the tip of her nose with a flour-covered hand just before sliding on oven mittens to remove a fresh pan of her famous pecan dream bars from the hot oven. Cracking open the oven door, the smell of baked goods fills the room. Placing the pan on the stove to cool, she starts to fill yet another large container to the rim with her home baked treats; satisfied in her mission to show her appreciation to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Kathy Martin, the store manager of West Marine, Pasadena, Md., currently shares her delicious baked goods with units both in Baltimore, Md., as well as overseas.

With 13 years of baking experience, it is routine to see Martin baking-up a variety of home-made goods most Sunday afternoons in an effort to share her appreciation for the armed service that has grown to mean so much to her.

“We actually started this because our company believes in giving back to the community,” said Martin. “I was looking for something that would be a little different.”

Through her quest to find someone different to support in her local community, she used family ties to explore her options.

“My husband’s in the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” said Martin. “I have that close link with the Coast Guard in that respect.”

Martin’s husband suggested the idea of supporting the Coast Guard in Baltimore. Due to the quantity of units at Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, Martin had to choose which units she would support.

“We narrowed it down to the working boats, the Coast Guard Cutter James Rankin and the Coast Guard Cutter Sledge,” said Martin. “With the marine link I have working for West Marine, it just fit well together to support the Coast Guard.”

Now that the hard part of narrowing down which units to support was behind her, she was ready to meet with the crew to kick off the relationship that was to follow.

“When she first approached me about doing this for the Coast Guard, she said she wanted to do something for the Rankin and the Sledge because she felt we were the most unappreciated part of the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Wayne B. Wallace, the commanding officer of the Rankin. “She just wanted to do something for the guys that take care of the waterways.”

After speaking with Wallace, she wanted to have the opportunity to get to know the crews of the Rankin and the Sledge. She decided to invite the crews of both cutters, approximately 40 people, to her West Marine store for a luncheon.

“Our first luncheon with the Rankin and the Sledge was such a screaming success,” said Martin. “It was overwhelming for me on a personal note because they were so happy just to come and have lunch.”

What started out as a luncheon, developed into weekly visits by Martin, usually Monday mornings, to several Coast Guard units in Baltimore.

As the relationship developed and weekly visits became commonplace, discussions about Coast Guard activities overseas eventually came up during a conversation with Wallace.

“This stunned me to begin with, because I thought the Coast Guard was only domestic,” said Martin. “It never dawned on me that they would be guarding our interests overseas.”

Realizing this to be an opportunity to expand her appreciation for the Coast Guard’s men and women, she came up with ideas on how to support the cutters overseas. She found a point of contact with the help of Wallace and received a list of items they would appreciate getting overseas.

Martin posted the list she received in her store so that her customers could donate items if they wished. She gathered several items for her care packages including candy, pretzels, cookies, powder drink mix, facial tissues and sanitation wipes.

She gathered all the donations, lined up the boxes and split everything equally before mailing the care packages to all of the cutters in Bahrain for Christmas. Not stopping at just one holiday opportunity, she took advantage of another upcoming holiday to show her appreciation for the Coast Guard members serving abroad.

“We did the same for Easter,” said Martin. “I gathered smaller boxes and mailed Easter baskets to the cutters.

For showing her appreciation to the Coast Guardsmen serving overseas for the past two holidays, Martin was appreciated by the commanding officers of the cutters in Bahrain.

“I recently got some lovely thank you notes,” said Martin. “They were very appreciative.”

Martin proudly displays a wall of Coast Guard items that include photos of the Rankin deploying the Francis Scott Key buoy, t-shirts from several cutters, crew photos from the cutters in Bahrain, personal letters from commanding officers and two large life rings. Once Wallace transfers to another duty station, another commanding officer will take his place. This will spark yet another opportunity for Martin to meet a new face and establish another relationship all over again.

Outside of Martin’s routine baked goods Mondays, she also goes out of her way to show her appreciation even when her crews are away from homeport.

“While doing some work in New Jersey, we needed a chart card for our chart plotter on the small boat,” said Chief Warrant Officer Paul A. Curtis, the commanding officer of the Sledge. “So we tried to get it from a local West Marine, but due to a policy issue with taking a credit card over the phone, we were not able to get the part. We made one call to Kathy, she got the card, shipped it to us and even sent cake and chocolates in the package. It’s above and beyond what one would reasonably expect someone like that to do,” he said.

“I made a chocolate cake with some candy to send along with it,” said Martin. “It doesn’t take much to make me smile except to send goodies away.”

Martin continually goes above-and-beyond to make the events special for the units that she supports. She went as far as getting special barbecue shipped from North Carolina, the state where Wallace is from.

“We got advice on how to get real Eastern North Carolina barbecue because Wallace is leaving the Rankin this summer,” said Martin. “Because this was going to be his last luncheon, I thought it would be nice to get something from North Carolina.”

“It’s going to be a little interesting because crews from the Rankin and the Sledge will be changing duty stations,” said Martin.

A member from the Rankin transferring to another local unit mentioned that he would miss Martin’s baked goods. With another opportunity for expansion placed before her, Martin was up to the challenge.

“I think I can handle taking pecan bars to the station,” said Martin.

Continuing along her current path, it’s only a matter of time until she expands to the point where she’s delivering baked goods to nearly every unit at the Coast Guard Yard.

“I figure that eventually I will have the entire base covered with cookies and pecan bars,” said Martin. “That’s my goal, to be the 80-year old crazy cookie lady.”

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