Judging On Assignment: Brookdale’s Cookie Contest

Pictured from left are Christine Shields, second-place winner, and Darci Rudny, who accepted the third-place prize on behalf of her daughter, Sally Ann Rudny, who was not in attendance. Not pictured is first-place winner Karen Hedin, who was transporting a Brookdale resident at the time of the contest. P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti

Up until this week I was able to say that I’ve never been on a judging panel of any kind.

All that changed when Brookdale Lakewood held its annual cookie contest Wednesday in which residents and their family members, along with those of other area assisted living facilities, submitted a total of 13 different cookies to be ranked and the top three chosen by a three-person judging panel.

As the lede above suggests, I was one member on that three-person judging panel. Joining me were Helen Merrill, co-founder of the Lucille Ball Little Theatre’s Junior Guilders program, and Gregory Carlson, director of the Chautauqua County Veterans Service Agency.

Having coordinated with Theresa Perrin, Brookdale’s life enrichment coordinator, for years since assuming this position at The Post-Journal, I was familiar with the cookie contest. I’ve covered the event in the past but never assumed that one day I would be at the judge’s table deliberating on which cookies I liked best. Nevertheless, I opted to step out of my comfort zone, try something new and enjoy a brief sugar high in the process.

As explained to me by Lisa Piazza, Brookdale’s sales manager, the contest is held every year as a means of engaging Brookdale residents and members of the surrounding community in some light-hearted, friendly competition.

“This is something we do to bring our residents back to something that they would do at home, and to invite the community to come in and be part of our resident experience,” she said. “We have families, past residents and people from senior centers getting involved.”

As my co-judges and I sampled from all 13 of the submissions I felt my blood-sugar level rising, but I soldiered in fulfillment of my civic duty. When all cookies had been tried, we judges departed to our private chambers to go over our notes and deliberate on our top three choices.

When the decisions were made we returned to the main activities area and stated our findings thusly: first place was awarded to Karen Hedin, a Brookdale family member, for her “double trouble Oreo yums”; second place went to Christine Shields for her lemon cookie; and third place went to Sally Ann Rudny for her oatmeal and Reese’s peanut butter cup cookie.

The prizes included various cooking and baking supplies valued at $100, $75 and $50 for first- through third-place, respectively.

Additionally, Brookdale resident Dorothy Nelson was honored under Brookdale’s “Friends For Life” program, which encourages residents to invite friends and family into the Brookdale community and share the experience. Nelson has referred four new people to Brookdale in her approximately 60 days since moving into the facility, and so received gifts of photo frames and albums.

So, all in all, I’d consider my first stint as a judge not only tasty but rewarding. I don’t see myself making a habit of such things, but it will always hold a distinction in my memory banks for that reason.