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By Daily News Staff
In the closing days of winter break, Ketchikan High School junior Tessa Salazar visited the Ketchikan Pioneer Home as she’s been doing ever since she was 3 years old. But this visit had a different purpose — to inform residents and staff of the amount stamped on a check that she held.
The check was a $12,000 donation for the Pioneer Home’s activities program, made possible by funds raised through Salazar’s Kids Cookies for a Cause bake sale.
Salazar, 16, began the annual fund-raising effort in 2011 when she was just 7 years old, eager to do good and wanting “to do something for the community.”
“I always liked to bake,” said Salazar. “My mom gave me the idea of giving back something, so that's when we started the bake sale.”
A number of volunteers participate in making the treats. One baking site is Point Higgins Elementary School, which permits the teen and her crew of volunteer bakers — which has grown over the years — access to the school’s kitchen, where they have more tables and oven space to set up a production line.
On Dec. 22, Salazar set up six tables of cookies and Christmas-themed snacks, both self-baked and community-donated, for her ninth-annual Kids Cookies for a Cause bake sale at The Plaza mall. The baked goods don’t have set prices — buyers can pay however much they like.
In addition to donations from the swarms of holiday-themed baked goods enthusiasts, there’s even a children's book based on Salazar’s Kids Cookies for a Cause endeavor — “Can a Cookie Change the World,” by Ketchikan author Rhonda Bolling — from which all proceeds are donated to the fundraiser.
For the first few years of bake sales, Salazar’s family’s business, Taquan Air, matched her bake-sale total, but the numbers grew quickly with community support. Taquan Air continues to make a set donation every year, and the annual bake sale effort attracts donations from out of town, as well.
Each year, Salazar picks a different organization to donate the bake sale proceeds to. The donations, which vary year to year, have ranged from about $1,000, which she accumulated her first year and donated to Ketchikan Homeless Shelter, to her fifth bake sale, in which she raised $20,000 and donated it to the Kolean Family. By the end of the 2018 bake sale, Kids Cookies for a Cause had raised a cumulative $72,921.65 from eight sales and distributed the entire amount to eight local charities.
This year, Salazar chose Ketchikan Pioneer Home activities program as the 2019 donation recipient and visited the assisted living home just before Friday’s broadcast snow warning with her mother, Angela Salazar, to let residents and staff know in person she raised $12,000 for the activities program.
“I have been volunteering here since I was three, and have been coming here since I was little, so it made sense,” said Salazar
Salazar noted that without the support of the community she would “be unable to do this.”
The Kids Cookies for a Cause bake sale sells out in a matter of three hours, and Salazar hopes to grow the effort into an entity so it can continue after she graduates, and that takes a good base of volunteers and community outreach.
Daily News Staff Writers Dustin Safranek and Scott Bowlen contributed to this story.